The worst fighting in decades between Azerbaijan and Armenia has flared up over the Nagorno-Karabakh region and some analysts say the conflict could lead to a new war if it continues much longer. The two former Soviet states fought a war over that same region in 1994, which ended in a ceasefire but not a full settlement. The two states are also backed by bigger regional powers, creating the potential for even more instability.
Azerbaijan and Armenia usually don’t come up in the American media. They are both tiny countries in the South Caucasus region. Azerbaijan is Muslim and has been backed by Turkey. Armenia is Christian and has received similar support from Russia. The landlocked region of Nagorno-Karabakh sits on the border of the two states. It’s officially part of Azerbaijan, but it’s controlled by ethnic Armenians and the local separatist government would like to break away.
The situation led to war in 1994 that killed over 20,000 people and did not resolve the essential border dispute. For over two decades, Nagorno-Karabakh has remained a “frozen conflict” that has sporadic episodes of fighting.
This latest offensive could be different.
Both Azerbaijan and Armenia blamed the other side for the fighting.
According to ABC News, Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry released a statement, claiming that 12 of their soldiers had become “shahids,” or Muslim martyrs, and one of their helicopters was shot down. They said that soldiers and residential areas were struck by intensive fire and had to take emergency measures. The Ministry claims that over 100 Armenia fighters have been killed or wounded so far, and that six tanks and 15 pieces of artillery were destroyed.
The Armenia side refutes most of that story. They claim Azerbaijan launched an offensive using aircraft and tanks at 2 a.m. after shooting artillery into the area. Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan reportedly said that 18 Armenians were killed and 35 wounded. The regional Nagorno-Karabakh defense ministry said 200 Azerbaijani soldiers were killed, but there’s no verification for those numbers.
Chairman Cliff Kupchan of the Eurasia Group, a geopolitical risk analysis company, said in a telephone interview with the New York Times that this could be a new war if someone doesn’t stop it.
“There’s real doubt whether Putin will let that stand. If we see this last a few days, then we have a new Nagorno-Karabakh war.”
The Kremlin issued its own statement, saying, “We urge the sides to show restraint, avoid further escalation, and strictly adhere to the ceasefire. We reiterate that there is no military solution to the conflict.”
If regional powers get too deeply involved, it could lead to disaster.
As previously reported by the Inquisitr, Turkey shot down a Russian jet for entering its airspace. Russia claims the aircraft never violated Turkish airspace; Turkey says otherwise. If it did, it was only for a matter of minutes or even seconds.
On numerous other occasions, Russian jets have entered foreign airspace. The typical reaction is that NATO or other national aircraft intercept the incoming jet and the encounter is sometimes tense, but ends with all pilots going home.
The Turkish missile strike shows that Turkey’s military does not hesitate when it comes to Russian forces. The incident ended with sanctions from Russia, and French President Hollande floated the idea that there is a “risk of war” between the two powers.
As for the Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict, America has condemned it “in the strongest terms the large-scale ceasefire violations” according to WYFF.
The United States, Russia, and France have been sending envoys to find a permanent solution to the fighting, but now with Azerbaijan and Armenia inflicting major damage on each other, it’s not clear what will happen to the ceasefire, much less a lasting peace treaty.
[Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images]