The French government said on Tuesday that it will call for talks between Russia, France and the United States and mediate in the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, in which dozens have been killed and hundreds wounded over the past two days, Reuters reported.
“We will trigger in the coming days a coordination of the Minsk Group to clear up what happened, who is responsible and find a way out,” an official at French President Emmanuel Macron’s office told the news agency.
Fierce clashes have erupted between Azerbaijan and its breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is run by ethnic Armenians. It is said to be the worst conflict since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.
A civilian was killed on Tuesday in the Armenian town of Vardenis due to Azeri shelling, according to Reuters. Azeri troops also targeted Vardenis in drone attacks. Azerbaijan’s defence ministry accused the Armenian army of shelling the Dashkesan region inside Azerbaijan from Vardenis, an allegation Armenia denied.
Azerbaijan’s official AZERTAC news agency reported that Armenian troops attacked a new residential complex for 1,170 internally displaced families. Seven out of 34 buildings in the residential complex were damaged. The news agency claimed that Azeri troops gave a “fitting response” to the attacks.
Meanwhile, Pakistan issued a statement supporting Azerbaijan, the Eurasian Times reported. “Pakistan stands with the brotherly nation of Azerbaijan and supports its right of self-defence,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “We support Azerbaijan’s position on Nagorno-Karabakh, which is in line with several unanimously adopted United Nations Security Council resolutions.”
However, Turkey blamed Armenia for the flare-up and assured Azerbaijan of its full support. “The Turkish people will support our Azerbaijani brothers with all our means as always,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan asked global powers to stop Turkey from getting involved in the conflict, claiming that the situation was close to degenerating into a full-scale war.
The Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict
The largely mountainous and forested region of Nagorno-Karabakh, with a population of around 1.5 lakh, is at the centre of the conflict, The Hindu reported. Nagorno-Karabakh is located within Azerbaijan but is mostly populated by people of Armenian descent. The government of the erstwhile Soviet Union had given Nagorno-Karabakh to its Azerbaijan republic, but offered it autonomy from the Azeris.
Separatism began in Nagorno-Karabakh in the late 1980s, when Soviet power was on the decline. In 1988, the Armenian national assembly voted to dissolve the region’s autonomous status and make it join Armenia. However, this was opposed by Azerbaijan, leading to clashes. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the two countries became independent and the clashes worsened to an open war. Tens of thousands of people were killed in the war, before a ceasefire was reached in 1994.
But by 1994, Armenia had taken control of Nagorno-Karabakh and handed it to Armenian rebels, who declared independence from Azerbaijan. This independent status is not recognised internationally. There have been occasional clashes on the Azerbaijan-Armenia border since 1994. In July, 16 people were killed in such clashes.