© Reuters A still from a video released by Armenia’s Defense Ministry shows what it says are members of the Azerbaijani service moving around an unidentified mountainous border area with Armenia.
By Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber
TBILISI (Reuters) – A new conflict erupted between Azerbaijan and Armenia on Wednesday, as international peace efforts intensified after the former Soviet republics ousted the former Soviet republics in 2014. A day after seeing the deadliest attack since 2020.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan told parliament that the Moscow-led CSTO would help his small landlocked country restore its territorial integrity after the Azerbaijani attack.
“If Azerbaijan attacked Armenia, it means they managed to control some territories,” TASS news agency reported.
Pashinyan said 105 Armenian servicemen had been killed since the attack began and the spa town of Jermuk, famous for its hot springs in the former Soviet Union, had been shelled.
The violence on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border on Tuesday, which Baku blamed on Yerevan, prompted Russian President Vladimir Putin to call for calm and heed international calls.
Armenia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Parui Hovhannishan told Reuters the conflict could escalate into war – the second major armed conflict in the former Soviet Union, with Russian forces focused on invading Ukraine.
A full-blown conflict would risk a tug-of-war in Russia and Turkey, and just as the war in Ukraine would disrupt energy supplies, it would disrupt important corridors for pipelines transporting oil and gas.
Azerbaijan, which is in a military alliance with Moscow and is home to a Russian military base, accused Armenia of attacking its army units.
Baku reported 50 military deaths in the first day of fighting and said two civilians were wounded on Wednesday.
“Our units are taking the necessary response,” the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan said.
Armenia’s defense ministry, which has denied striking Azerbaijani positions, said Wednesday’s fighting had largely subsided by midday (0800 GMT).
Reuters could not immediately confirm battlefield accounts from either side.
The move has sparked international concern, with Russia, the US, France and the European Union stepping up diplomatic efforts.
According to Baku, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov met Philip Ricker, the US State Department’s Caucasus adviser, and told him that Armenia should completely withdraw from Azerbaijan’s territory.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said on Tuesday that Russia could either “stir the pot” or use its influence to “calm the waters”.
He made several calls with Armenia’s Pashinyan and Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev to reach a cease-fire agreement, and expressed his concern over the heavy fighting in Armenia.
French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna called for “an end to the strike on Armenian territory” in a meeting with their counterparts from both countries.
EU Special Representative Toivo Klar arrived in the South Caucasus on Wednesday to facilitate the talks. The CSTO has sent a delegation to assess the situation at the border.
Pashinyan withdrew from the CSTO meeting in Uzbekistan on Thursday and Friday, Sputnik news agency reported, citing the state media office.
In other clashes with former Soviet republics, Kyrgyz and Tajik border guards exchanged gunfire in central Asia on Wednesday over a dispute over their border, officials from both sides said.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have been fighting for decades over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous region recognized internationally as part of Azerbaijan but until 2020 it was entirely populated and controlled by Armenians, with support from Yerevan.
Azerbaijan made significant territorial gains in and around Nagorno-Karabakh during the six-week war.
Since then, despite a Russian-brokered cease-fire agreement and both sides trying to reach a comprehensive peace settlement, clashes have erupted regularly.