A deadly clash has broken out along the oil-rich border of Armenia and Azerbaijan. The skirmish has claimed the lives of both military personnel as well as civilians.
According to Reuters, at least a dozen people have been killed in the fighting. The area sits along the Nagorno-Karabakh border, which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but controlled by ethnic Armenians, who have sought to officially break away from Azerbaijan. There are large cultural differences between Armenians and Azerbaijanis, with religion one of the starkest: the former is a staunch Christian population while the latter is Muslim.
The Armenian defense ministry claimed that Azerbaijan had attacked civilian settlements as a way to stem the separatist zeal. The skirmish killed both a woman and a child in addition to 16 servicemen. One hundred people are also reported to be injured.
In response, Armenia declared martial law and shot down two helicopters and three drones. In addition, they destroyed three tanks, which has been denied by Azerbaijan.
“Get ready to defend our sacred homeland,” Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan stated, warning that the skirmish could be the precursor to a “large-scale war” and accusing Azerbaijan of “planned aggression” (via BBC).
Meanwhile, Azerbaijan stated that Armenia instigated the scuffle, and that their attack was in response to shelling which had killed a family of five.
Azerbaijan also claimed that it had seized control of around seven villages in the region. Though Nagorno-Karabakh had previously denied such reports, they later admitted to losing “some positions” and confessed the likelihood of more civilian casualties.
Since the fighting broke out, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has stated that he was confident of regaining control over the separatist region.
He also spoke of the nation’s plans for stabilizing the breakaway region in a televised address to the nation, specifically claiming to have “liberated” several towns as a result of their attacks.
“I am confident that our successful counter-offensive operation will put an end to the occupation, to the injustice, to the 30-year-long occupation,” he added.
Since news of the fighting broke out, Turkey has declared its support for Azerbaijan. The alliance is not surprising considering the ethnic Turk makeup of both countries.
Meanwhile, both Russia and the United States have called for a ceasefire in order to ease tensions and stem any further aggression.
Nagorno-Karabakh is an important area on an international stage due to its proximity to vital oil pipelines.