Fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces flared up again Thursday on the South Caucasus nations’ shared border, with both sides blaming the other for the attacks that extended the worst outbreak of hostilities between the two countries in years.
In a statement that reflected the potential for the conflict’s escalation, Azerbaijan warned it could strike Armenia’s nuclear power plant if the Armenian forces launched an attack on a strategic water reservoir in Azerbaijan.
Armenia’s Foreign Ministry denounced the Azerbaijani threat as ‘genocidal.’
The threat came in a statement from Azerbaijani Defense Ministry spokesman Vagif Dargyakhly, who said:’The Armenian side mustn’t forget that the state-of-the-art missile systems our army has are capable of launching a precision strike on the Metsamor nuclear power plant, and that would be a huge tragedy for Armenia.’
Attacking the nuclear power plant, which is close to Armenia’s capital Yerevan, ‘will lead to a great catastrophe,’ the spokesman warned.
There have been casualties on both sides of the border since the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan flared up again on Sunday. Above, Relatives and friends mourn at the coffin with the body of Armenian Major Garush Hambardzumyan, who was killed during a fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia Yerevan, Armenia, July 16, 2020.
Pictured: People grieve at the grave of Azerbaijani Armed Forces Colonel Ilgar Mirzoyev in Baku, Azerbaijan July 15, 2020. Mirzoyev was killed in armed clashes on the border between Azerbaijan and Armenia earlier this week
The Soviet-built nuclear power plant is located close to Armenia’s border with Turkey, a close ally of Azerbaijan.
Armenian military spokesman Artsrun Hovhannisyan said Armenia had brought the Azerbaijani statement to the attention of its international partners and expects them to strongly condemn it. He noted that Armenian officials have never made threats to strike civilian facilities in Azerbaijan.
The two neighbors have been locked in conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a region of Azerbaijan that has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a war there ended in 1994. International efforts to settle the conflict have stalled, and clashes have been frequent.
The Soviet-built Metsamor nuclear power plant that Azerbaijan has threatened to attack, pictured above, is located close to Armenia’s border with Turkey, a close ally of Azerbaijan
The latest outbreak of fighting in the northern section of the border began Sunday and so far has left at least 17 people dead. Azerbaijan said it lost 12 service members and one civilian, and Armenia said four of its troops were killed and 20 others were wounded.
Both sides also reported that dozens of enemy troops were killed, but the competing claims couldn’t be independently verified.
Armenia’s eastern border is shared with Azerbaijan, and tension between the two nations has been a fixture in the region since 1994. To the west of Armenia lies Turkey, which has vowed to back Azerbaijan should a conflict escalate to war
The current outburst of fighting appears to be the most serious spike in hostilities since 2016 when scores were killed in four days of fighting.
After a lull in fighting on Wednesday, the conflict resumed with new vigor on Thursday. Armenia’s Defense Ministry said Azerbaijani forces launched a cross-border attack targeting its military positions early Thursday and were rebuffed.
Ministry spokeswoman Shushan Stepanyan said the Armenian military allowed Azerbaijan to collect the bodies of its soldiers killed during the raid, adding that Azerbaijani troops already had evacuated more than 10 bodies.
Stepanyan also asserted that the Azerbaijani military shelled several villages in Tavush province with heavy artillery.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry dismissed the Armenian statement as a ‘disinformation.’
It said the Armenian military attacked Azerbaijani forces on Thursday morning, shelling several settlements with large-caliber weapons.
Pictured: A destroyed house after attacks carried out by the Armenian army with heavy weapons in Dondar Kuscu village of Tovuz, one of the regions where Armenians opened fire during the clashes, Azerbaijan on July 16, 2020
The latest outbreak of fighting in the northern section of the border began Sunday and so far has left at least 17 people dead. Above, priest Ter Abel prays for peace outside the village of Movses on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border on July 15, 2020
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev fired his foreign minister Thursday, accusing him of failing to duly defend the nation’s interests amid the conflict.
Aliyev also lashed out at nationalist demonstrators who tried to break into the parliament building in the Azerbaijani capital earlier this week while demanding tougher action against Armenia. Seven police officers were injured during the incident.
He accused the leaders of the opposition Popular Front of Azerbaijan of inciting riots to destabilize Azerbaijani during the renewed fighting with Armenia and warned they could face criminal charges.
The United States and Russia, which co-chair the Minsk group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that has tried to negotiate a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, condemned the violence and called for restraint.
Peace talks have been on-going between the two nations since 1994 but have failed to find any long-lasting resolution. Above, Azerbaijan President Ilham Heydar Oglu Aliyev (second left) arrives with then Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan (second right) at the opening of talks in Geneva, Switzerland October 16, 2017.
Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan (L) and Belarus’ Prime Minister Roman Golovchenko shake hands ahead of a meeting of the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council, July 17 2020
Turkey, which has close ethnic and cultural ties with Azerbaijan, has voiced strong support to Baku in the conflict.
On Thursday, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar met with Azerbaijan’s deputy defense minister and air force commander, Ramiz Tahirov, in Ankara and condemned ‘the vile attack’ on Azerbaijan’s Tovuz district.
‘They (Armenians) will be crushed and drown in this plot they have created and they will definitively pay for what they did,’ Akar said after the meeting. ‘We will continue to stand with our Azerbaijani brothers in the face of such attacks, as we have always done.’
President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that it would not hesitate to ‘stand against any attack’ on Azerbaijan and that Armenia was ‘out of its depth’ in the conflict.
On Friday, Defence Industry Director Ismail Demir tweeted that ‘Our defence industry, with all its experience, technology and capabilities, from our armed drones to our ammunition and missiles and our electronic warfare systems, is always at the disposal of Azerbaijan!’.
Pictured: A law enforcement officer stands by the gate of a cordoned off house due to an unexploded shell threat in the village of Agdam in Tovuz district close to the Azerbaijani-Armenian border on July 15, 2020
International concern is high because of the threat to stability in a region that hosts pipelines taking oil and gas from the Caspian Sea to global markets.
Demir, who met Azerbaijan’s deputy defence minister and air force commander Ramiz Tahirov in Ankara, said Turkey would help to modernise Azerbaijan’s army.
Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said Armenia had started the border clashes, and that it would be ‘drowned under the plot that they initiated’.
Russia said on Friday it is prepared to mediate peace talks between ex-Soviet rivals Armenia and Azerbaijan after the escalation.
President Vladimir Putin and members of Russia’s Security Council expressed ‘extreme concern’ over the flare-up in fighting between the South Caucasus countries that erupted last week, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Putin alongside senior Russian government officials ’emphasised an urgent need for the parties to adhere to a ceasefire, and voiced a readiness to mediate efforts’, Peskov said, quoted by the Interfax news agency.
Negotiations mediated by Russia, the United States, and France since 1994 have failed to bring about a lasting resolution to the stalemate.
Kim Kardashian urges international community to ‘pay attention’ and ‘intervene’ after Azerbaijan’s ‘unprovoked attacks’ on Armenia
By Deirdre Simonds for DailyMail.com
Kim Kardashian is using her massive influence on social media to shine a light on the growing conflict.
On Thursday, the 39-year-old reality star-turned-justice warrior informed her 179 million Instagram followers of the threat made by Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense to Armenia.
‘Despite an ongoing global pandemic, Azerbaijan has violated the UN’s appeal for global ceasefire by unprovoked attacks against the Republic of Armenia,’ she wrote on her Instagram Story.
Urging reform: On Thursday, the 39-year-old reality star-turned-justice warrior informed her 179 million Instagram followers that Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense threatened to bomb her father’s ancestral homeland
‘Civilian structures in Armenia have been targeted, and Azerbaijan has now threatened to bomb the nuclear power plant in Armenia.’
‘In the meantime, congressional amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act will be voted on next week to ensure that the U.S. does not enable Azerbaijan with military aid that would be used against Armenia and Artsakh,’ she wrote.
Then, she urged the international community to ‘pay attention and intervene’ with political and diplomatic measures to ‘prevent unnecessary escalation and the loss of human life.’
The mother-of-four expressed her support for her fellow Armenians and prayed for those ‘involved in recent tensions on the border of the country.’
‘I urge for a peaceful resolution for these unprovoked attacks during this already very difficult pandemic,’ she concluded, before encouraging her fans to call their senators and representatives, in support of Armenia.
Kardashian, who is studying to take the bar in California, baptized her three youngest children in Armenia last year.
Homeland: Kardashin, who is studying to take the bar in California, baptized her three youngest children in Armenia last year (pictured with sister Kourtney Kardashian and two children)