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Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict: Flames of war rekindled as world urges restraint

Heavy fighting continues in the South Caucasus region of Nagorno-Karabakh, a day after a decades-long territorial dispute re-erupted with the heaviest clashes in years between Azerbaijan’s military and Armenian-backed forces.

Fighting was reported throughout the night into early Monday morning, with both sides deploying heavy artillery.

The latest flare-up of violence has resulted in scores of fatalities and injuries on both sides.

Azerbaijan’s foreign minister said on Monday that six Azeri civilians had lost their lives and 19 others sustained injuries in the latest bout of fighting.

The Azerbaijani Prosecutor General’s Office reported that “as many as 26 civilians have been hospitalized with various bodily injuries.”

An Armenian defense ministry spokesperson said 15 more separatist forces in the Nagorno-Karabakh region had been killed overnight, bringing their total fatality count to 32 since clashes erupted Sunday.

Also speaking on Monday, Armenian Ambassador to Russia Vardan Toganyan confirmed that around 30 Armenian servicemen had been killed and 100 others injured in the clashes.

Both sides have accused each other of sustained artillery shelling.

Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense said the Armenian backed forces had shelled the city of Terter overnight, adding Azeri forces had attacked in retaliation, destroying at least two Armenian tanks.

Armenia also said Azerbaijan had kept targeting the region with artillery fire.

Sputnik reported on Monday that Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev had signed a decree authorizing partial mobilization of reserve servicemen.

Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh declared martial law and general mobilization on Sunday.

World Countries React

The fresh escalation has concerned the international community and prompted calls for calm in the region.

On Monday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry called on all sides to show restraint.

China’s Foreign Ministry also called for restraint on Monday, saying that Beijing hoped Yerevan and Baku could resolve their differences through dialog. Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said that maintaining regional peace and stability was in the interests of all parties.

Turkey and Russia were quick to react to the violence on Sunday, calling on both sides to cease fire and start negotiations.

Turkey, an Azerbaijan ally, accused Armenia of the flare-up and promised Azerbaijan its “full support.”

Russia, on the other hand, which maintains close ties with Armenia, called for “an end to hostilities.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed serious concern over the resumption of large-scale clashes and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he was holding talks with his Turkish counterpart to encourage a return to negotiations.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the meantime, spoke to his Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliyev.

Erdogan called Armenia “the biggest threat to peace in the region” and urged “the entire world to stand with Azerbaijan in their battle against invasion and cruelty.”

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan hit back, accusing Ankara of “dangerous behavior” and pleading for the international community to prevent Ankara’s involvement in the conflict.

Iran was also one of the first countries to react to regional conflict, inviting the two sides to immediately end the fighting. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeid Khatibzadeh said Tehran was fully prepared to mediate the resumption of talks between the conflicting sides.

“Iran is closely monitoring the conflict with concern and calls for an immediate end to the escalation and the start of talks between the two countries,” Khatibzadeh said.

French President Emmanuel Macron also talked with his Azerbaijani counterpart over the phone during which he stressed the importance of resolving the conflict through negotiations.

US President Donald Trump also reacted to the fighting, saying that his administration would seek to stop the violence through its “good relationships” in the region.

His State Department also condemned the violence in a statement, calling on both Baku and Yerevan to halt the violence, as well as any rhetoric or other actions that could worsen tensions.

The statement said any participation in the escalating violence by outside parties would be “deeply unhelpful.”

Expressing concern over the escalation, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also urged both Baku and Yerevan to stop fighting and return to talks.

Pope Francis, the European Union (EU) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to stop military actions and return to the negotiating table.

Armenian separatists seized Karabakh in a move supported by Yerevan after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992.

Some 30,000 people were killed in the conflict that ensued, which ended with a fragile ceasefire in 1994, with about 20 percent of Azerbaijani territory remaining under the control of Armenian forces.

The latest clashes follow a flare-up along the two counties’ border in July, which claimed the lives of 17 soldiers from both sides. In April 2016, some 110 people were killed in the most serious fighting in years.

While Azerbaijan has promised to take back the area, by the use of force if necessary, Armenia says it will do all it can to defend the territory.

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