Nagorno-Karabakh cease-fire strained by fierce new clashes

Nagorno-Karabakh cease-fire strained by fierce new clashes
A man walks on a deserted street in the city of Stepanakert in Azerbaijan. (AFP)
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Updated 21 October 2020

Nagorno-Karabakh cease-fire strained by fierce new clashes

Nagorno-Karabakh cease-fire strained by fierce new clashes
  • The cease-fire, agreed to on Saturday, has had little impact on fighting that began on Sept. 27

YEREVAN/BAKU: A cease-fire in the mountain territory of Nagorno-Karabakh was under severe strain on Tuesday after fierce new clashes between Azeri and ethnic Armenian forces fighting their deadliest battles since the 1990s. 

The cease-fire, agreed to on Saturday, has had little impact on fighting that began on Sept. 27, despite concerns it could spark a wider conflict involving Russia and Turkey.

In an interview, Armenian President Armen Sarkissian accused Turkey of destabilising the South Caucasus with its strong backing for Azerbaijan. But he said he did not advocate military intervention by Russia, which has a defense pact with Armenia.

“What I’m preaching is not involving Russia and then tomorrow Iran and a third party, and making Armenia and Azerbaijan and the Caucasus another Syria,” he told France-24 television.

“What I’m saying here is that instead of talking about involving Russia, we have to talk about excluding Turkey, which has a completely destructive role here.”

Ankara denies accusations by Armenia, France and Russia that it sent mercenaries from the conflicts in Syria and Libya to fight in Nagorno-Karabakh, which broke away from Azerbaijan as the Soviet Union collapsed.

In comments to Azerbaijan’s parliament, Turkish Parliament Speaker Mustafa Sentop portrayed Armenia as the aggressor and criticized mediation led for years by France, the United States and Russia under the auspices of the OSCE security watchdog.

“If they are sincere on their path to peace, those who have held Armenia’s leash and supported it for years need to end this dangerous game now and stop supporting Armenia. Azerbaijan does not have another 30 years to wait,” Sentop said.

The OSCE’s Nagorno-Karabakh mediating panel, known as the Minsk Group, “is brain dead,” he said.

Several hundred people have been killed since Sept. 27 in fighting involving drones, warplanes, heavy artillery, tanks and missiles, raising fears of a humanitarian crisis and concerns about the security of oil and gas pipelines in Azerbaijan.

The new cease-fire appears to have had no more effect on fighting than an earlier deal brokered by Russia that failed.

Azerbaijan wants an end to what it calls Armenian occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia rules this out and accuses Azerbaijan of making a land grab.

Officials in Nagorno-Karabakh reported new artillery battles on Tuesday and said fighting was intense in southern areas of the conflict zone.

Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry also reported fighting in several areas, including disputed territory close to the line of contact dividing the sides. It said Armenian forces were shelling the Azeri regions of Terter and Aghdam.

Azerbaijan said its foreign minister, Jeyhun Bayramov, would hold talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Minsk Group in Washington on Friday, but gave no details.

Russia’s permanent representative to the United Nations said the Security Council had discussed the conflict on Monday. Asked about the possibility of UN observers going to the region, he said that would require a mandate from the Security Council.

“This is not a quick process,” the envoy, Vasily Nebenzya, was quoted as saying by TASS. He suggested any observer mission might involve the OSCE.


World leaders welcome US transfer of power

World leaders welcome US transfer of power
Updated 20 January 2021

World leaders welcome US transfer of power

World leaders welcome US transfer of power

PARIS: Several world leaders said they were looking forward to Wednesday’s transfer of power in the United States, where Democrat Joe Biden will be sworn in as president after four turbulent years under Donald Trump.

President Hassan Rouhani did not miss the opportunity to hail the departure of “tyrant” Trump, with Tehran repeatedly calling on Washington to lift sanctions imposed over its nuclear drive.
Biden’s administration wants the United States back in the landmark Iran nuclear accord which Trump withdrew from, conditional on Tehran’s return to strict compliance.
A “tyrant’s era came to an end and today is the final day of his ominous reign,” Rouhani said.
“We expect (the Biden administration) to return to law and to commitments, and try in the next four years, if they can, to remove the stains of the past four years.”

Top EU officials voiced relief that they would soon have a friend in the White House again.
“Let’s build a new founding pact for a stronger Europe, for a stronger America and for a better world,” said Charles Michel, president of the European Council.
“This time-honored ceremony on the steps of the US Capitol will be a demonstration of the resilience of American democracy,” added European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
“And the resounding proof that, once again, after four long years, Europe has a friend in the White House.”

NATO said it hoped to boost transatlantic ties under Biden.
“We look forward to working with President-elect Joe Biden to further strengthen ties between the United States and Europe, as we face global challenges none of us can tackle alone,” the military alliance’s chief Jens Stoltenberg wrote on Twitter Tuesday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was looking forward to “working closely” with Biden.
Johnson, who has faced criticism over his close relationship with Trump, cited a host of policy areas in which he hoped to collaborate with Biden.
“In our fight against COVID and across climate change, defense, security and in promoting and defending democracy, our goals are the same and our nations will work hand in hand to achieve them,” he said in a statement.

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev called for Russia and the United States to repair their strained ties.
“The current condition of relations between Russia and the United States is of great concern,” Gorbachev said in an interview with state-run news agency TASS.
“But this also means that something has to be done about it in order to normalize relations,” he said.
“We cannot fence ourselves off from each other.”