Armenia and Azerbaijan fight for fourth consecutive day over separatist region

Armenia and Azerbaijan fight for fourth consecutive day over separatist region
An Armenian serviceman fires a cannon towards Azerbaijan positions in the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh (Sipan Gyulumyan/Armenian Defense Ministry Press Service/PAN Photo via AP)

Heavy fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces over the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh have continued for a fourth straight day.

Azerbaijan’s Defence Ministry said Armenian forces started shelling the town of Tartar on Wednesday morning, damaging “civilian infrastructure” and wounding people.

Meanwhile, Armenian military officials reported that Azerbaijani forces were bombing positions of the Nagorno-Karabakh army in the north of the war-torn region.

A building allegedly damaged by recent shelling during the fighting (AP/Aziz Karimov)

Armenian officials alleged that Turkish drones and F-16 fighter jets were being used. Turkey has denied supplying Azerbaijan with arms, and Azerbaijan said it did not have any F-16 jets.

The fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh erupted on Sunday and has continued despite mounting calls for a ceasefire from around the globe.

Nagorno-Karabakh lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by the Armenian government since 1994 at the end of a separatist war following the collapse of the Soviet Union three years earlier.

The region in the Caucasus Mountains of about 1,700 square miles is 30 miles from the Armenian border. Soldiers backed by Armenia also occupy some Azerbaijani territory outside the region.

People wave Azerbaijan national flags during a funeral ceremony of a member of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces who was allegedly killed during fighting over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh in Tartar (AP/Aziz Karimov)

The conflict escalated on Tuesday, with Armenia alleging Turkish involvement and claiming that a Turkish F-16 fighter jet shot down an SU-25 from its air force in Armenian airspace, killing the pilot.

Turkey, which has been vocal about siding with Azerbaijan in the dispute, denied those claims, and so did Azerbaijan.

However, Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said if Azerbaijan requests assistance, Ankara will provide it.

“We have said that if Azerbaijan wants to solve this on the field, we will stand by Azerbaijan. If Azerbaijan makes a request, we would do the necessary. But we see that Azerbaijan has sufficient capacity,” Mr Cavusoglu told the Anadolu news agency.

In the meantime, European officials are seeking to bring the opposing sides to the negotiating table.

French President Emmanuel Macron, speaking at a news conference in Riga, Latvia, called for talks between France, Russia and the United States – the three countries co-chair the Minsk group, set up in 1992 by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe to resolve the conflict – to mediate.

French President Emmanuel Macron (AP/Roman Koksarov)

“I will speak to President (Vladimir) Putin tonight and, I think, President (Donald) Trump tomorrow to discuss and propose an exit strategy” for the crisis, Mr Marcon said on Wednesday.

The French president also condemned recent comments from Turkey as “reckless and dangerous” and said he was “extremely preoccupied by the belligerent messages from Turkey in the past hours.”

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