JEDDAH: Azerbaijan on Tuesday launched a new military offensive in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, raising fears of another war in the Caucasus.
Armenian separatists in the region said Azerbaijan was using artillery, combat aircraft and attack drones, and 25 people including some civilians had been killed and 80 wounded. They accused Azerbaijani forces of “trying to advance” into Karabakh. “Fighting continues along the entire line of contact,” they said.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said it was using “high precision weapons on the front line and in depth.” Baku’s presidency said: “Localised anti-terrorist measures have been launched in the region.” It urged Karabakh separatists to lay down their arms and offered talks in the town of Yevlakh.
“Illegal Armenian armed forces must raise the white flag,” it said. “Otherwise, the anti-terrorist measures will continue until the end.”
Armenia’s Foreign Ministry condemned the offensive. “Azerbaijan unleashed another large-scale aggression against the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, aiming to complete its policy of ethnic cleansing,” it said, and Russian peacekeepers in the region should “take clear and unequivocal steps to stop Azerbaijan’s aggression.”
The former Soviet Caucasus rivals have been locked in a decades-long dispute over Karabakh, and foughttwo wars over the mountainous territory in the 1990s and in 2020.
Regional power brokers Russia and Turkiye, who oversee a fragile peacekeeping mission in Nagorno-Karabakh, had been informed about Azerbaijan’s military activities in Karabakh, Baku said.
Turkey called the operation “necessary” and urged “comprehensive negotiations” to end the fighting. “As a result of its rightful and legitimate concerns about the situation on the ground that it voiced repeatedly not being alleviated in nearly three years since the end of the Second Karabakh War, Azerbaijan was forced to take measures it deems necessary on its sovereign territory,” the Foreign Ministry said.
Russian peacekeepers patrolling the region called for an immediate ceasefire, and said they had organized civilian evacuations. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia was concerned over the sharp escalation in Karabakh and was working to get the two countries to negotiate.
Protesters in Armenia’s capital Yerevan called on Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to resign after he denounced calls for a “coup” over Azerbaijan’s offensive.
Hundreds of people gathered in Republic Square outside Pashinyan’s offices to protest against his handling of the Karabakh crisis, shouting “Nikol traitor” and “Nikol resign.” Some tried to break through a police cordon.
Armenia’s opposition has accused Pashinyan of being weak on Karabakh, a breakaway region of Azerbaijanpopulated mainly by ethnic Armenians. “It’s impossible to have a leader who is losing our territories,” said one protester, Gevorg Gevorgyan, a military veteran.