Armenia and Azerbaijan fought over Nagorno-Karabakh for a second day Monday, with both sides blaming each other for resuming the attacks that reportedly killed and wounded dozens, according to media reports.
The heavy fighting broke out Sunday in Nagorno-Karabakh that lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by the Armenian government since 1994.
Nagorno-Karabakh, a region in the Caucasus Mountains about 4,400 square kilometers (1,700 square miles), is 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the Armenian border. Armenia also occupies some Azerbaijani territory to link Nagorno-Karabakh with it.
The Associated Press quoted a statement by Armenia's Foreign Ministry saying: "Turkish military experts are fighting side by side with Azerbaijan, who are using Turkish weapons, including UAVs and warplanes." The situation "clearly indicates" that people in Nagorno-Karabakh are fighting against "a Turkish-Azerbaijani alliance", the statement added.
Both Armenia and Turkey accused each other of recruiting foreign mercenaries.
Omer Celik, spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party, denied reports that Turkey had sent arms or foreign fighters to Azerbaijan. "Armenia is disturbed by Turkey's solidarity with Azerbaijan and is producing lies against Turkey," Celik tweeted.
Erdogan has reiterated Turkey's support for Azerbaijan and said Armenia's immediate withdrawal from the region was the only way to ensure peace. "All other impositions and threats will not only be unjust and unlawful, but will continue to indulge Armenia," he said.
Erdogan criticized France, the U.S. and Russia the three chairs of the so-called Minsk group that was set up in 1992 to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict saying they had failed to resolve the issue for 30 years.
"They have done their best not to solve this issue. And now they come and counsel and issue threats. They say 'is Turkey here, is the Turkish military here?'" Erdogan said.
"Whose lands were occupied? Azerbaijan's lands.... Nobody asks for (Armenia) to account. Azerbaijan has been forced to take the matters into its own hands," he added.
The Russian Connection
Azerbaijan has never forgotten its 1990s humiliation at the hands of Armenia. Now stronger than its sworn enemy and emboldened by Turkish support, Baku's assertiveness is creating a headache for Moscow, says Paul Robinson , a professor at the University of Ottawa. He writes about Russian and Soviet history, military history, and military ethics.
One explanation for the recent flare-up may be that Azerbaijan feels much stronger than it did when it suffered its defeat at the hands of Armenia 30 years ago, Robinson said, adding: The Azeri economy, benefitting from substantial oil reserves, has outgrown that of its neighbor, as has the Azeri population - there are 10 million Azeris compared with only three million Armenians. Azerbaijan has invested heavily in its military and may feel much more confident about its prospects should matters escalate further.
Another explanation may be the support Azerbaijan is receiving from its primary ally - Turkey. Following this weekend's clashes, Turkish president Recep Erdogan called on 'the entire world to stand with Azerbaijan in its battle against invasion'. Such Turkish support may embolden the Azeri leadership not to back down if things begin to get out of hand, Robinson said in an article published by Russian TV (RT) news Monday.
Russia has officially adopted a position of neutrality in the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, and called on all sides to settle their differences peacefully. This has meant supporting the status quo. Since that status quo favors Armenia, in reality this position has meant supporting Armenia, a posture reinforced by Armenia's membership of various multilateral initiatives sponsored by Russia, notably the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Eurasian Economic Union, according to Robinson
The conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh thus indirectly pits Russia against Turkey. Nagorno-Karabakh is not the only location where Russian and Turkish proxies are clashing. In Syria, Russia has been backing the government of Bashar Assad while Turkey has been propping up the anti-Assad rebels in Idlib province. And in Libya, Russia is said to support rebel general Khalifa Haftar, while Turkey recently sent substantial aid to the government forces in Tripoli to help drive Haftar's troops away from the capital.
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