Fighting between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces entered a fourth day on Wednesday in the biggest eruption of their decades-old conflict since a 1994 ceasefire. Azerbaijan and the ethnic Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh said there were attacks from both sides at several directions along the line of contact that divides them. The fighting has spread well beyond the borders of the enclave, threatening to spill into all-out war between the former Soviet republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia.
The leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia have brushed off the suggestion of peace talks and accused each other of obstructing negotiations over the separatist territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Dozens of people have been killed and injured in three days of heavy fighting between the two countries, with Armenia saying one of its warplanes was shot down by a fighter jet from Azerbaijan’s ally Turkey.
This would be a major escalation of the violence, but both Turkey and Azerbaijan denied reports of the attack.
The Armenian military said an SU-25 from its air force was shot down in Armenian airspace by a Turkish F-16 fighter jet that took off from Azerbaijan, and the pilot was killed.
The allegation of downing the jet was “absolutely untrue”, said Fahrettin Altun, communications director for Turkey’s president and Azerbaijani officials called it “another fantasy of the Armenian military propaganda machine”.
The international community is calling for talks to end the decades-old conflict between the two former Soviet republics in the Caucasus Mountains region following a flareup of violence this week.
It centres on Nagorno-Karabakh, a region that lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by the Armenian government since 1994 at the end of a separatist war.
The UN Security Council called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to immediately halt the fighting and urgently resume talks without preconditions.
The UN’s most powerful body strongly condemned the use of force and backed secretary-general Antonio Guterres’ earlier call to stop the fighting, deescalate tensions, and resume talks “without delay”.
Azerbaijani president Ilkham Aliyev told Russian state TV channel Rossia 1 that Baku is committed to negotiating a resolution but that Armenia is obstructing the process.
He said: “The Armenian prime minister publicly declares that Karabakh is (part of) Armenia, period. In this case, what kind of negotiating process can we talk about?”
Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan, in turn, told the broadcaster that “it is very hard to talk about negotiations ... when specific military operations are underway”.
He said there is no military solution to the conflict and called for a compromise.
The Nagorno-Karabakh defence ministry reported 84 servicemen have been killed since Sunday and both countries accused each other of firing into their territory outside of the Nagorno-Karabakh area on Tuesday.–PA and Reuters