Erdogan supports his ‘brothers’ from Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
For the second day in a row, there is heavy fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh and reports of large numbers of victims. Turkish president Erdogan has called on Armenia to put an end to the crisis and withdraw from the region.
Nagorno-Karabakh, in the South Caucasus, is officially a region of Azerbaijan, whose population is ethnically and religiously related to Turkey. De facto, ethnic Armenians have had an independent state since the 1990s, with the support of Armenia.
In no uncertain terms, Erdogan called Armenia today for an end to the ‘occupation of Azerbaijani territory’ and the ‘foreign mercenaries and terrorists’ to be removed. There can only be peace if Armenia immediately leaves Azerbaijan, says Erdogan, who said that Turkey is” by all means and all its heart ” on the side of Azerbaijan.
He joined the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, who said he wanted to “win back” Nagorno-Karabakh.
Russia, which is an ally of Armenia, today offered to mediate between Armenia and Azerbaijan. According to Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov, Russia is in a position to make use of its influence and good relations with both countries. The Armenian ambassador in Moscow says his country will ask Russia for military support if necessary.
During and after the break-up of the Soviet Union, there was a six-year war over Nagorno-Karabakh, which had been an autonomous Armenian region of the Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan. The war ended in 1994 with a cease-fire, after which it remained for decades one of the ‘frozen conflicts’ in the Caucasus. Nagorno-Karabakh was an enclave until 1994, but later Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh managed to establish a border crossing.
Yesterday, unexpected fierce fighting broke out, both sides blaming each other. Since then, uncontrollable reports of dozens of dead and hundreds of injured have come from the area. The Ministry of Defense of Armenia even claimed that 550 Armenian soldiers had been “destroyed”, something which was directly contradicted by Armenia.
The Nagorno-Karabakh government reported this afternoon that 59 of his own soldiers were killed in fighting with Azerbaijani troops. According to Azerbaijan, Armenian troops from Nagorno-Karabakh are shooting at the town of Terter.
There is no doubt that there will be heavy fighting. The documentary filmmaker Angela Frangyan reports from Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, to Reuters news agency that the residents have fled to the shelters and that there are constant gunfire.
Armenia seems determined to support Nagorno-Karabakh. Parliament today spoke of a massive attack on the region, accusing Turkey of undermining stability in the region. It also swears that Armenia will protect the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh.