Azerbaijan-Armenia: Clashes ongoing nearly 24 hours later

Both the Armenian and Azerbaijani Armed Forces have reported casualties in the most recent clashes.

 An Azerbaijani service member and a Russian peacekeeper stand guard at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Shusha (Shushi) in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, November 13, 2020. (photo credit: STRINGER/ REUTERS)
An Azerbaijani service member and a Russian peacekeeper stand guard at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Shusha (Shushi) in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, November 13, 2020.
(photo credit: STRINGER/ REUTERS)

Large clashes broke out between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces along the border between the two countries on Monday night, according to Azerbaijani and Armenian Defense Ministries. As of Tuesday morning, clashes were ongoing, despite a statement by Russian officials that a ceasefire had been reached.

Both the Armenian and Azerbaijani Armed Forces have reported casualties. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced that 49 Armenian soldiers had been killed in the fighting as of Tuesday morning. Three Armenian civilians have also reportedly been injured by the shelling.

Azerbaijani artillery and UAVs reportedly targeted sites in Vardenis, Goris, Sotk and Jermuk in eastern Armenia overnight, with the Armenian Defense Ministry stating on Tuesday morning that strikes continued to target those military and civilian infrastructure in those areas and in Ishkhanasar and Kapan.

The Armenian Defense Ministry updated that as of 2 p.m. on Tuesday the situation remained "extremely tense" and that while the intensity of shelling had reduced, Azerbaijani forces were continuing to attempt to advance their positions in multiple locations.

Shortly after the clashes began overnight, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry claimed that Armenian forces carried out "large-scale sabotage" towards Dashkasan, Kalbajar and Lachin, including mining certain areas. The Defense Ministry denied that Azerbaijani forces were targeting civilians.

Ethnic Armenian soldiers gather at their fighting positions near the village of Taghavard in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, January 11, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/ARTEM MIKRYUKOV)Ethnic Armenian soldiers gather at their fighting positions near the village of Taghavard in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, January 11, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/ARTEM MIKRYUKOV)

On Tuesday morning, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry claimed that the Armenians were attempting to delay the signing of a peace agreement between the two countries.

The Azerbaijani APA state-run news agency published an analysis on Tuesday morning calling for Armenia to be "forced to peace" and for a "safe zone" to be created on the border between the two countries. The article additionally claimed that Armenian forces remained in Nagorno-Karabakh region despite agreements to withdraw.

Countries around the world push peaceful solution

Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov spoke with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlud Çavuşoğlu and Assistant Secretary of State of the United States of America for European and Eurasian Affairs Karen Donfried about the most recent clashes on Tuesday morning. 

The Armenian government has appealed to the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) to implement the provisions of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance which would have the states who are parties to the treaty send assistance to Armenia in the conflict, Armenpress reported on Tuesday. The CSTO Permanent Council held a meeting on the situation on Tuesday.

Overnight, Pashinyan updated Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron on the situation. The prime minister also spoke with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The Kremlin is conducting "intensive work" in order to de-escalate the situation on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday.

"It is difficult to overstate the role of the Russian Federation in resolving the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Putin is making every effort to de-escalate."

France will bring up the topic of clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan at the UN Security Council, Macron's office said Tuesday, adding that Macron continued to urge both sides to stick to a ceasefire.

Armenian Defense Minister Suren Papikyan and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu agreed on Tuesday morning to take steps to stabilize the situation along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu called on Armenia to "cease its provocations and focus on peace negotiations and cooperation with Azerbaijan," in a tweet on Tuesday morning.

Iran presses 'inadmissibility' of any changes in borders

The Iranian Foreign Ministry called for a resolution of the tensions through peaceful means and emphasized the "inadmissibility of any changes in the borders" of Azerbaijan and Armenia. The Foreign Ministry expressed its readiness to provide any assistance possible to resolve the dispute.

In recent weeks, multiple editorials in Azerbaijani media have called on ethnic Azerbaijanis in northern Iran to try separating from Iran, with Iranian officials warning against foreign efforts to disrupt relations between the two countries.

Last year, tensions spiked between Azerbaijan and Iran after Azerbaijan began targeting Iranian trucks with fines and arrests, and Iran moved military forces to the border and warned against Israeli influence near its borders.

Pashinyan and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi spoke on Tuesday about the clashes, with Raisi called the possibility of a new war in the South Caucasus region "unacceptable."

The US response

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken hold separate calls overnight with Armenia's prime minister and Azerbaijan's president to express Washington's concerns over fighting along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, the State Department said on Tuesday.

Blinken urged Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev to cease hostilities and said Washington would push for an immediate halt to the fighting, the department said.

"As we have long made clear, there can be no military solution to the conflict," Blinken said in a statement. "We urge an end to any military hostilities immediately."

Blinken said that he was concerned that Russia could try to "stir the pot" in the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Washington has urged both sides in the conflict to cease hostilities after fighting broke out near the two countries border.

"Whether Russia tries in some fashion to stirring the pot, to create a distraction from Ukraine, is something we're always concerned about," Blinken told reporters at an event in Indiana, adding that Russia could also use its influence in the region to help "calm the waters."

Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict

In August, two soldiers from the defense force of the de-facto Artsakh Republic was killed and 14 others were injured in strikes by Azerbaijani forces in the north-western part of the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The Republic of Artsakh is a de facto republic internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan. In 2020, the area where the republic is situated was recaptured by Azerbaijan.

Meanwhile, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry claimed that Armenian militants fired at Azerbaijani positions in the Lachin district at the time, killing one Azerbaijani soldier.

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry announced then that it had carried out an operation titled "Revenge" against a number of groups of Armenian forces in the region. The ministry additionally claimed that "Armenian armed groups" tried to seize the Kyrghgiz hill and establish new combat positions there.

Later in August, Azerbaijani forces entered Lachin, replacing Russian peacekeepers who were stationed there.

In 2020, a war broke out between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh and nearby areas, ending just over a month later with a new line of contact drawn and Russian peacekeepers deployed along the line. Sporadic clashes have been reported repeatedly along the line since the war.

In recent months, Armenia and Azerbaijan have been holding peace talks to address tensions over the Nagorno-Karabakh area.

Reuters contributed to this report.