By Felix Light
TBILISI (Reuters) – Ethnic Armenian separatist authorities on Tuesday reported a major escalation of hostilities in Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh region, as Azerbaijan launched an offensive. Here are some facts about the fighting:
WHAT DOES AZERBAIJAN SAY?
Azerbaijan said it was launching “anti-terrorist measures of a local nature” in Nagorno-Karabakh, and began shelling parts of the mountain enclave, which is controlled by ethnic Armenian authorities backed by Armenia.
It said it was attacking Armenian military units in response to what it called “terrorist provocations”, and that it would provide “humanitarian corridors” for civilians.
Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry said peace in the breakaway region could only be achieved once Armenian troops left and the separatist local authority was dissolved.
The defence ministry said it wanted to “disarm and secure the withdrawal of formations of Armenia’s armed forces from our territories, (and) neutralise their military infrastructure”.
It said it was using “high-precision weapons” to attack only legitimate military targets, not civilians, in an attempt to “restore constitutional order”.
Azerbaijan’s defence minister briefed his Turkish counterpart on Baku’s operation, his ministry said.
WHAT DO THE ARMENIANS SAY?
The separatist authority said Azerbaijan was attacking its positions with artillery and drones along the length of the front line, trying to advance deep into the territory.
Armenia said it had no troops in Karabakh, which Armenians call “Artsakh”.
Its foreign ministry urged Russian peacekeeping troops to stop Azerbaijan’s “full-scale aggression”.
Russia brokered a ceasefire after the last war in the region in 2020, in which Azerbaijan regained control of swathes of territory in Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding regions. It agreed to deploy almost 2,000 peacekeepers to guard a lifeline road connecting the territory to Armenia.
But in recent months Armenia has accused it of looking away and failing to fulfil what Moscow itself says is its role as guarantor of security in the region.
Moscow said its peacekeepers would continue fulfilling their mission.
“We are deeply concerned about the sharp escalation of the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. “The Russian side urges the conflict parties to stop the bloodshed, immediately stop the hostilities and return to the path of political and diplomatic settlement.”
She said Azerbaijan had warned Russian peacekeepers about the military action only minutes before it began.
(Reporting by Felix Light)