Nagorno-Karabakh: Azerbaijan's leader demands Armenian withdrawal and apology

WION Web Team
Baku/Yeravan Published: Oct 05, 2020, 08.42 AM(IST)

Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev speaks during an address to the nation in Baku, Azerbaijan Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

Armenia and Azerbaijan have resisted international calls for a ceasefire and clashes have intensified in recent days, with both sides claiming victories on the front and saying they are inflicting heavy losses

Azerbaijan has demanded Armenia's withdrawal and apology for intensifying the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and bombing its second city of Ganja.

Each side accused the other of targeting civilian areas, as the conflict widened a week after heavy fighting broke out in the decades-old dispute over the ethnic-Armenian region.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have resisted international calls for a ceasefire and clashes have intensified in recent days, with both sides claiming victories on the front and saying they are inflicting heavy losses.

Also read: Azerbaijan accuses Armenia of bombing another city, escalating conflict

In a fiery address to the nation, Azerbaijani President Aliyev said Azeri forces were advancing in a week-long offensive to retake lands that they lost to ethnic Armenians in the 1990s.

He said that Armenian forces "must leave our territories, not in words but in deeds," provide a timetable for a full withdrawal, and recognise the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.

He said the international community had failed for three decades to enforce UN resolutions or put pressure on Armenia to return Azeri territories.

Also see: Armenia and Azerbaijan: A decades-long bloody rivalry

The content and tone of Aliyev's message made clear that Azerbaijan would not entertain calls for an immediate ceasefire, as Russia, the United States and European Union have urged.

Speaking immediately after Aliyev’s speech, Armenian Defence Ministry official Artsrun Hovhannisyan said: "I don't think that there is any risk for Yerevan (the Armenian capital), but anyway we are in war."

The clashes are the worst since the 1990s, when some 30,000 people were killed and are spreading beyond the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. They have raised international concern about stability in the South Caucasus, where pipelines carry Azeri oil and gas to world markets.

ALSO READ | Greek hackers bring down over 150 Azerbaijani government websites as sign of support for Armenia

The conflict threatens to drag in other regional powers as Azerbaijan is supported by Turkey, while Armenia has a defence pact with Russia.

Hundreds of people have been killed in the past week of fighting between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces, including more than 40 civilians.

Earlier on Sunday, Azerbaijan said Armenian forces had fired rockets at its second city of Ganja, killing one civilian and wounding 32, and also launched a missile attack on the Azeri industrial city of Mingachevir. Azerbaijan threatened to retaliate by destroying military targets inside Armenia.

Both Armenia's and the breakaway region's defence ministries said they denied the Azeri claim of the Armenian attack on Mingachevir in Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan's ally Turkey accused Armenia of "targeting civilians" in Ganja and reiterated support for its fellow Turkic and Muslim country as "one nation, two states".

Turkey's Foreign Ministry said: "The attacks of Armenia targeting the civilians in Ganja...are a new manifestation of Armenia's unlawful attitude. We condemn these attacks."

Armenia denied it had directed fire "of any kind" towards Azerbaijan. The leader of Nagorno-Karabakh said his forces had targeted a military airbase in Ganja but later stopped firing in order to avoid civilian casualties.

FIGHTING SPREADS

Until now, the main fighting has been between Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian enclave inside Azerbaijan, but it now threatens to spill over into a direct war with Armenia itself.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called for an immediate ceasefire in a conversation with Armenia's foreign minister and said Moscow was ready to help seek a solution to the conflict via the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Azerbaijan, however, says it has lost patience with the OSCE's failure to resolve the conflict.

Nagorno-Karabakh once again came under Azeri bombardment on Sunday and an official there said the civilian death toll over the past week had risen to 18, including casualties in the enclave's capital of Stepanakert and nearby Shushi.

Azerbaijan says it has lost 24 civilians, and Armenia two.

Aliyev said on Twitter his forces had captured the town of Jabrail and several villages in what, if confirmed, would be a significant advance on the southern edge of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Armenian defence ministry spokeswoman Shushan Stepanyan dismissed the claim as "yet another fabrication". Independent verification was not possible.

Nagorno-Karabakh leader Arayik Harutyunyan said his forces would target military units located in the large Azeri cities.

Read in App