Erdogan to Armenia: End 'occupation' of Karabakh

Clay Curtis
September 29, 2020

On Monday evening, Azerbaijani forces launched a "massive offensive at the Karabakh frontline's southern and north-eastern sectors", said Armenia's defence ministry spokesman Artsrun Hovhannisyan.

The ministry also said its troops shot down two Azerbaijani military helicopters and three drones after Baku's forces began bombing the breakaway enclave, including its capital, Stepanakert.

Azerbaijan's state news agency, Azertac, reported that 12 Armenian air-defense missile systems were destroyed while one military helicopter from Azerbaijan was shot down though the crew survived.

"Armenia must immediately halt its attacks, send back the mercenaries and terrorists it brought from overseas and withdraw from the Azerbaijan lands", said Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, adding a ceasefire and peace are needed.

"They basically did everything they could to not resolve the issue", Erdogan said.

Ankara has pledged support for Azerbaijan in the conflict. "The fighting must not stop until we force Armenia to return our lands", Vidadi Alekperov, a 39-year-old waiter in Baku, told AFP. Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a bloody war over it in the 1990s, with subsequent border clashes sporadically erupting between the sides, despite a ceasefire.

Russian Federation and global organizations including North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) also called on both sides to halt fighting.

The fighting reportedly involves airpower and heavy armour.

"We strongly condemn the use of force and regret the senseless loss of life, including civilians", the co-chairs said.

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An Armenian soldier of the self-defense army of Nagorno-Karabakh stands near an artillery unit in the town of Martakert, where clashes with Azeri forces are taking place, in Nagorno-Karabakh region, which is controlled by separatist Armenians, April 3, 2016.

The declaration of independence by the ethnic Armenian majority of Nagorno-Karabakh, a region inside Azerbaijan, set off a war with tens of thousands of casualties that ended in an uneasy 1994 cease-fire. "Now Azerbaijan must take matters into its own hands".

No country recognises Karabakh's independence - not even Armenia - and it is still considered part of Azerbaijan by the global community.

The escalation has stirred an outpouring of patriotic fervour in both countries.

Neither Turkey nor Azerbaijan have so far offered any evidence to support their claims about the hired guns, although Turkey is widely believed to have sent Syrian mercenaries to back its allies in the Turkish-supported government in Libya.

"We have been waiting for this day for so long".

Answering a question by EURACTIV, foreign policy spokesman Peter Stano said Brussels can not confirm reports of outside forces joining the conflict but added: "No external interference in this conflict is acceptable".

Peace efforts in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, mediated by the Minsk Group, collapsed in 2010. "We are not afraid of a war", he said.

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