Nearly 100 soldiers killed as Armenia, Azerbaijan resume fighting

There is a serious risk that a resumption of full-fledged hostilities would drag in Russia and Turkey, the regions pre-eminent powers, and escalate into a broader regional conflict

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Wednesday, September 14, 2022, 12:58 PM IST
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In this image taken from a YouTube footage released by Armenian Defense Ministry on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022, shows Azerbaijanian servicemen crossing the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and approaching the Armenian positions | AP

Fresh fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia led to the deaths of 49 Armenian and 50 Azeri soldiers on Tuesday, prompting fears of a renewal of hostilities between the two long-tim rivals, who recently fought a war over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan stated that 49 Armenian soldiers were killed in the clash, while Azerbaijan's Defence Ministry said 50 of their own troops were killed.

The territorial ownership of Nagorno-Karabakh is fiercely contested between Armenians and Azerbaijanis.

The fighting broke out at suddenly after midnight, according to Armenia, with Azeri forces unleashing a devastating artillery barrage, as well as drone strikes, on Armenian positions on Armenian territory. It was followed by Azeri troops trying to push into Armenia, according to the country's defence ministry.

Notably, Azerbaijan used drones to great effect during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War -- a conflict it handily won.

The conflict was characterised by the widespread use of combat drones, particularly by Azerbaijan, as well as heavy artillery barrages, rocket attacks and trench warfare.

Throughout the campaign, Azerbaijan relied heavily on drone strikes against Armenian/Artsakh forces, inflicting heavy losses upon Armenian tanks, artillery, air defence systems and military personnel, although some Azerbaijani drones were shot down.

The current conflict has its roots in events following World War I and today the region is de jure part of Azerbaijan, although large parts are de facto held by the internationally unrecognised Republic of Artsakh, which is supported by Armenia.

The two countries have been locked in a decades-old conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, which is part of Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a separatist war there ended in 1994.

Role of Russia and Turkey

There is a serious risk that a resumption of full-fledged hostilities would drag in Russia and Turkey, the regions pre-eminent powers, and escalate into a broader regional conflict.

The Russian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday urged both parties β€œto refrain from further escalation and show restraint.”

Moscow has engaged in a delicate balancing act in seeking to maintain friendly ties with both ex-Soviet nations. It has strong economic and security ties with Armenia, which hosts a Russian military base, while also has been developing close cooperation with oil-rich Azerbaijan.

Turkey, Azerbaijan's primary ally, placed the blame for the violence on Armenia. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, said, "Armenia should cease its provocations and focus on peace negotiations."

There are currently 2,000 Russian peacekeepers currently stationed in the disputed region, concentrated around the Lachin corridor -- the primary link between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia proper.

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