Clashes on Azerbaijan-Armenian Border Resume Following Pro-War Protests in Baku

Fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia resumed early on Thursday after a one-day pause, officials from both countries announced.

The decade-long territorial dispute between the two countries erupted into fresh violence over the weekend, with both sides accusing the other of shelling civilian areas along the border between Tavush in Armenia and Tovus in Azerbaijan.

11 Azeri soldiers, one Azeri citizen and four Armenian soldiers have reportedly died in the clashes, which are the worst since 2016. One of the Azeri casualties include Major-General Polad Gashimov, the highest ranking military official to be killed since Azerbaijan’s independence from the Soviet Union.

Armenian defense ministry spokeswoman Sushan Stepanyan claimed on Thursday that the Armenian military had defended a pre-dawn raid by Azerbaijan on one of its border posts in the Tavush region.

“After a fierce gunbattle, the enemy was repelled, suffering casualties,” she said, claiming Azerbajani forces then shelled two Armenian villages on the border.

She reported that no Armenian soldiers had been killed in the latest violence as of 9 am local time. “Gunfire is continuing at the moment,” she wrote on Facebook.

The Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense released a statement claiming the clashes resumed after “Armenians shelled Azerbaijani villages with large-caliber weapons”. As of Thursday afternoon, they have released no further information.

The recent spate of violence has concerned the international community. NATO called on the two countries to take all necessary steps to prevent further escalation, according to NATO’s special representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia, James Appathurai.

Meanwhile, President of Turkey Tayyip Edogan affirmed that Turkey would support Azerbaijan against any attack. “It is our binding duty to mobilize all our political, diplomatic, and social relations in our region and our world in this direction,” he said at a news conference.

The decade-long dispute focuses around the contested area of Nagorno-Karabakh. Ethnic Armenian separatists seized the area in the 1990s in a war that killed thousands. A ceasefire was reached in 1994, although violence has re-erupted numerous times since. The region is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but is controlled by ethnic Armenians.

Despite multiple international diplomatic efforts, the two countries remain in the unresolved conflict.

Pro-war protests in Baku

On Tuesday night, thousands of protestors rallied in the center of Baku, calling on the government to mobilize troops and retake Nagorno-Karabakh. News outlets estimated that 30 to 50 thousand protestors gathered in front of the parliament building.

Demonstrators chanted pro-war slogans such as ‘end the quarantine, start the war,’ ‘death to the Armenians,’ and ‘order us to go to war’, reported one eye witness on twitter.

Protestors also called for the resignation of Najmaddin Sadigov, the Chief of General Staff of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces and Deputy Minister of Defence.

Government officials attempted to calm protestors before riot police arrived in the early hours of July 15. Turan, an independent Azeri news outlet, reported that the police used tear gas and water cannons.

The Interior Ministry of Azerbaijan condemned the protests and announced that seven arrests had been made for “mass riots” and “resistance or use of force against a government official.”

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, mass gatherings are currently banned in Azerbaijan.

A small group of Azerbaijanis gathered in Tbilisi in front of the Armenian Embassy on Thursday morning wearing t-shirts with the slogans ‘stop Armenian terror’.

By Amy Jones

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16 July 2020 17:49