There are signs of a new war between the hostile Armenia and Azerbaijan in the South Caucasus. The Armenian-inhabited Nagorno-Karabakh is contested.
BAKU/YEREVAN dpa | In the South Caucasus, the ex-Soviet republic of Azerbaijan has launched a new military operation to conquer the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict region.
The Ministry of Defense in Baku spoke on Tuesday of an “anti-terrorist operation of a local character to restore constitutional order” in the region. According to the statement from Baku, the military operation is intended to enforce the withdrawal of Armenian troops from the area as stipulated in the ceasefire after the last Nagorno-Karabakh war in 2020. The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry claimed that only military targets were fired.
Ruben Vardanyan, former head of government of the internationally unrecognized Republic of Artsakh, which covers the Nagorno-Karabakh region, reported massive artillery fire on the area on his Telegram channel. “The leadership of Armenia must recognize Artsakh and join in protecting our citizens,” he demanded as a consequence.
The current leadership of the conflict region around the capital Stepanakert also rejected the accusations from Baku. The defense forces abided by the ceasefire, the Artsakh Defense Ministry said in a press release. The allegation that the ceasefire was broken and two Azerbaijani soldiers were injured was “false and does not correspond to the facts,” it said in a statement.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have long been enemies
The Christian Orthodox Armenia and Muslim Azerbaijan have long been enemies. Biggest bone of contention between Yerevan and Baku is the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, which belongs to Azerbaijan but is inhabited by Armenians. After a war in the early 1990s, Armenia initially had the upper hand. In a second war in 2020, Azerbaijan, which was heavily armed with money from the oil and gas business, won and recaptured its own territory.
In shorter military actions thereafter, Baku also occupied around 150 square kilometers of Armenian territory. Armenia’s Foreign Ministry last week demanded that Azerbaijan vacate these areas. Baku replied that Armenia still occupied eight Azerbaijani villages.
Baku has been blocking the connection for months of the approximately 120,000 Karabakh Armenians to Armenia. There is a lack of food and medicine in the area.
Azerbaijan is supported by Turkey in the conflict, while Russia, Armenia’s traditional protecting power, is losing influence. “As a result of the events in Ukraine, Russia’s options have changed,” said Prime Minister Pashinyan in a recent interview with the US media “Politico”. His country wants to avoid being dependent on external protectors in the future.