National Post (Latest Edition)
Fears of invasion rising in Caucasus
Turkey backs Azeri claims to disputed region
Turkey raised the spectre of full- blown war in the flashpoint region of Nagorno-karabakh Tuesday after vowing to help its ally Azerbaijan seize the disputed territory back from Armenian control.
As fighting in the region raged for a third day, Turkey said it was “fully committed” to helping Azerbaijan take back its “occupied” lands, which Azeris were driven out of during the civil war of the early Nineties.
The bellicose statements — made by a spokesman for Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president — will fuel fears that Azerbaijan intends a full-scale military incursion into Nagorno-karabakh.
Around 100 people have now died since fighting first broke out on Sunday. Armenia claimed Tuesday that a Turkish fighter jet had shot down one of its own warplanes, a claim denounced as “propaganda” by Azerbaijan.
Azeri bombardments were also reported to have killed a civilian in a village in the Armenian town of Vardenis, which lies well to the west of Nagorno- Karabakh in Armenia proper. The attack on Armenian sovereign soil was regarded as another potentially serious escalation in the hostilities.
Local officials in Nagorno- Karabakh now claim that 86 servicemen have died. “This is a life-and-death war,” declared Arayik Harutyunyan, president of the Nagorno-karabakh region.
Azerbaijan said that 12 Azeri civilians had been killed and 35 wounded so far.
Meanwhile, as other world powers appealed for calm, leaders in both Azerbaijan and Armenia exchanged heated insults, portraying each other as tyrants who were leading their nations into pointless conflict.
“If the international community is not capable of stopping Armenia’s reckless dictator, then Azerbaijan will do it,” said Ilham Aliyev, the Azerbaijan president, in remarks aimed at Armen Sarkissian, Armenia’s president.
Nikol Pashinyan, Armenia’s prime minister, in turn accused Aliyev of running a dictatorship which ran on “Armenophobia.”
UN diplomats fear a repeat of the bloodshed that took place when Nagorno- Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan in the early 1990s, when around 30,000 people died. While the conflict has largely “frozen” since, many analysts fear that oil- rich Azerbaijan — which now has drone weaponry capable of knocking out the Armenian tank units that defend Nagorno- Karabakh’s mountainous terrain — may now be tempted to take it back with Turkish backing.
Both Armenia and Azerbaijan have long- range missiles that are capable of hitting each other’s major cities.
The Kremlin urged all sides to pursue “a peaceful settlement,” while Mike Pompeo, the U. S. Secretary of State, called for negotiations “as quickly as possible.”