At least 99 killed in the clash between Armenia and Azerbaijan

YEREVAN, Armenia — Battle on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan killed around 100 soldiers on Tuesday, as attacks on both sides fueled fears of a flare-up of wider hostilities between the longtime adversaries.

Armenia said at least 49 of its soldiers were killed; Azerbaijan said it lost 50.

The fighting erupted minutes after midnight, with Azerbaijani forces unleashing artillery fire and drone attacks in many parts of Armenian territory, according to the Armenian Defense Ministry. It said shelling had decreased during the day, but Azerbaijani troops were trying to enter Armenian territory.

Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry said it was responding to a “large-scale provocation” by Armenia late Monday and early Tuesday. It said Armenian troops laid mines and fired on Azerbaijani military positions.

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

Azerbaijan retook large parts of Nagorno-Karabakh in a six-week war in 2020 that killed more than 6,600 people and ended in a peace deal brokered by Russia. Moscow has deployed around 2,000 troops to the region to serve as peacekeepers under the deal.

Read more: In Azerbaijan’s grand plan to turn the disputed city of Shusha into a cultural capital

The Russian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday called on the two countries to “refrain from further escalation and exercise restraint.” Moscow is engaged in a delicate balancing act in its quest to maintain friendly ties with both former Soviet nations. It has strong economic and security ties with Armenia, which hosts a Russian military base, while developing close cooperation with oil-rich Azerbaijan.

The international community also called for calm.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Armenia and Azerbaijan “to take immediate steps to de-escalate tensions, exercise maximum restraint and resolve all outstanding issues through dialogue” and implement previous agreements, his spokesman said.

The UN Security Council has scheduled closed-door consultations on the renewed fighting for Wednesday.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan delivers his speech at the National Assembly of Armenia in Yerevan, Armenia, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022. (Tigran Mehrabyan—PAN Photo/AP)

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan addresses the National Assembly of Armenia in Yerevan, Armenia, Tuesday, September 13, 2022.

Tigran Mehrabyan—PAN Photo/AP

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called Russian President Vladimir Putin, and later had talks with French President Emmanuel Macron, European Council President Charles Michel and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke by phone with his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken spoke with both Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. The U.S. has a special envoy in the region, Blinken said, “and my hope is that we can move this from the conflict back to the negotiating table and back to trying to build peace.”

Speaking in parliament early on Tuesday, Pashinyan accused Azerbaijan of taking an intransigent position in recent talks in Brussels brokered by the European Union.

Armenia said the Azerbaijani shelling on Tuesday damaged civilian infrastructure and wounded an unspecified number of people.

Read more: Scenes from the rear front lines of Europe’s oldest ‘frozen war’ in Nagorno-Karabakh

On Facebook, Aliyev expressed his condolences “to the families and relatives of our servicemen who died on September 13 while preventing large-scale provocations carried out by the Armenian armed forces in the direction of Kalbajar, Lachin, Dashkasan and Zangilan regions of Azerbaijan.”

Turkey, an ally of Azerbaijan, also blamed the violence on Armenia. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed support for Aliyev and said in a statement that Turkey and Azerbaijan were “fraternal … on all issues.”

The governor of Gegharkunik province, one of the regions that came under Azerbaijani shelling, said there was a 40-minute lull in fighting, apparently reflecting Moscow’s attempt to negotiate a truce before it was later renewed. Governor Karen Sargsyan said four Armenian soldiers in his region were killed and another 43 wounded in the shelling.

The Armenian government has said it will formally ask Russia for help under the friendship treaty between the countries, and will also approach the United Nations and the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Moscow-dominated security alliance of former Soviet nations.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on Armenia’s request, but added on a conference call with reporters that Putin was “making every effort to help de-escalate tensions.”

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