Armenia and Azerbaijan have put themselves on a war footing after heavy clashes erupted over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The worst clashes since 2016 have raised the spectre of a new war between long-standing rivals Azerbaijan and Armenia, which have been locked for decades in a territorial dispute over the Armenia-backed breakaway region of Nagorny Karabakh.
A major confrontation between Muslim Azerbaijan and majority Christian Armenia threatened to embroil regional players Russia and Turkey.
Amid the rising tensions, the international community reacted to Sunday’s fighting between the two archenemies:
The US joined global calls for Armenia and Azerbaijan to end deadly clashes over Nagorny Karabakh.
The US State Department said it contacted the two countries “to urge both sides to cease hostilities immediately, to use the existing direct communication links between them to avoid further escalation, and to avoid unhelpful rhetoric and actions.”
Armenia and Azerbaijan accused each other of initiating clashes on Sunday that claimed at least 23 lives.
“The United States believes participation in the escalating violence by external parties would be deeply unhelpful and only exacerbate regional tensions,” the US statement said.
Iran called for an immediate end to the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan after clashes between the two countries, a foreign ministry spokesman was quoted as saying by state TV, announcing Tehran’s readiness to help in establishing a ceasefire.
“Iran is closely monitoring the conflict with concern and calls for an immediate end to the conflict and the start of talks between the two countries,” Saeed Khatibzadeh said.
“Tehran is ready to use all its capacities to help talks to start between the two sides.”
Azerbaijan’s ally Turkey blamed Armenia for the flare-up and promised Azerbaijan its “full support”.
“While I call on the Armenian people to take hold of their future against their leadership that is dragging them to catastrophe and those using it like puppets, we also call on the entire world to stand with Azerbaijan in their battle against invasion and cruelty,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Twitter, adding Turkey will “increasingly continue” its solidarity with Baku.
Earlier, his spokesman Ibrahim Kalin accused Armenia of violating a ceasefire with Azerbaijan “by attacking civilian locations”.
We strongly condemn Armenia’s attack on Azerbaijan. Armenia has once again violated international law and shown that it has no interest in peace and stability.
Turkey stands in full solidarity with Azerbaijan and unreservedly supports its right to self-defense.
— Ibrahim Kalin (@ikalin1) September 27, 2020
Meanwhile, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said recent hostilities could end “throw[ing] the region into fire” while promising Ankara’s backing to Baku.
“The biggest obstacle to peace and stability in the Caucasus is the hostile stance of Armenia, and it must immediately turn back from this hostility that will send the region into fire,” Akar said.
“We will support our Azerbaijani brothers with all our means in their fight to protect their territorial integrity,” he added.
Fellow Minsk Group co-chair Russia also called for an immediate ceasefire.
“We are calling on the sides to immediately halt fire and begin talks to stabilise the situation,” the Russian foreign ministry said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the military flareup with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and called for “an end to hostilities”.
“The Russian side expressed serious concern over the resumption of large-scale clashes,” the Kremlin said.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, meanwhile, was in intensive talks with his Turkish counterpart to reach a return to negotiations.
France, a co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group mediating between Armenia and Azerbaijan in a bid to find a peaceful solution to the decades-old Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, called on Yerevan and Baku to end hostilities and immediately restart dialogue.
“France is extremely concerned by the confrontation,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll said in a statement.
Along with the United States and Russia, France is a co-president of the Minsk group.
Charles Michel, president of the European Council, called for a halt to fighting and an “immediate return to negotiations”.
“Military action must stop, as a matter of urgency, to prevent a further escalation,” Michel tweeted, calling for “an immediate return to negotiations, without preconditions”.
Reports of hostilities from the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone are of most serious concern.
Military action must stop, as a matter of urgency, to prevent a further escalation.
An immediate return to negotiations, without preconditions, is the only way forward.
— Charles Michel (@eucopresident) September 27, 2020
Germany also called for an “immediate” halt to the fighting, urging a return to dialogue to resolve the dispute.
“I call on both parties to the conflict to immediately stop all hostilities, especially the shelling of villages and towns,” Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement, voicing “alarm” at reports of civilian casualties.
“The conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region can only be resolved through negotiations,” added the German foreign minister, whose country currently holds the rotating European Union presidency.
Pope Francis said he is praying for peace in the Caucasus region.
“I pray for peace in the Caucasus and I ask the parties in the conflict to make gestures of goodwill and brotherhood that may lead to resolving problems not with the use of force and weapons, but through dialogue and negotiation,” the leader of the Roman Catholic Church said.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry said it was “deeply concerned” about the deteriorating security situation in Nagorno-Karabakh region, saying that it stood with Azerbaijan.
The shelling by Armenian forces over the weekend was “reprehensible and most unfortunate,” a ministry spokesman said in a statement. “This could compromise peace and security of the entire region.
“We support Azerbaijan’s position on Nagorno-Karabakh, which is in line with the several unanimously adopted UN Security Council resolutions,” it added.