At least 16 military and several civilians were killed on Sunday (September 27) in the heaviest clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan since 2016, reigniting concern about stability in the South Caucasus, a corridor for pipelines carrying oil and gas to world markets.
The clashes between the two former Soviet republics, which fought a war in the 1990s, were the latest flare-up of a long-running conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a breakaway region that is inside Azerbaijan but is run by ethnic Armenians.
Nagorno-Karabakh said 16 of its serviceman had been killed and more than 100 wounded after Azerbaijan launched an air and artillery attack early on Sunday. Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh declared martial law and mobilised the male population.
Azerbaijan, which also declared martial law, said its forces responded to Armenian shelling and that five members of one family had been killed by Armenian shelling.
It also said its forces had seized control of up to seven villages. Nagorno-Karabakh initially denied this but later acknowledged losing “some positions” and said it had suffered a number of civilian casualties, without giving details.
Five members of one family had been killed by Armenian shelling, Azerbaijan’s prosecutor’s office said.
The clashes prompted a flurry of diplomacy to reduce the new tensions in a decades-old conflict between majority Christian Armenia and mainly Muslim Azerbaijan, with Russia calling for an immediate ceasefire and another regional power, Turkey, saying it would support Azerbaijan.
Pipelines shipping Caspian oil and natural gas from Azerbaijan to the world pass close to Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia also warned about security risks in the South Caucasus in July after Azerbaijan threatened to attack Armenia’s nuclear power plant as possible retaliation.
Nagorno-Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan in a conflict that broke out as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
Though a ceasefire was agreed in 1994, after thousands of people were killed and many more displaced, Azerbaijan and Armenia frequently accuse each other of attacks around Nagorno-Karabakh and along the separate Azeri-Armenian frontier.
In Sunday’s clashes, Armenian right activists said an ethnic Armenian woman and child had also been killed.
(Production: Dmitry Turlyun)