University of Sussex Students' Newspaper

War in the Caucasus as Nagorno-Karabakh conflict reignites

Georgia Keetch

ByGeorgia Keetch

Oct 7, 2020

Words by Oliver Mizzi, News Editor

Fighting erupted on Sunday 27 September, between the militaries of Armenia, the breakaway state of Artsakh, and Azerbaijan, over the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan.

The region has been under the control of ethnic Armenians since the end of the 1988-1994 Nagorno-Karabakh war. The region is still claimed by Azerbaijan as it’s sovereign territory, with Azerbaijan stating it had “liberated” territory that was “occupied”. The Republic of Artsakh is not an internationally recognised state.

Since fighting started, both governments have claimed that thousands of the opposing soldiers have been killed and wounded, and that hundreds of tanks and other military equipment have been destroyed.

Footage from both armed forces media wings have confirmed that the use of heavy weapons, such as heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, have been used.

Armenia has released footage of its military using anti-tank guided missiles to destroy Azeri tanks, and anti-air systems to shoot down Azeri drones and helicopters. Azerbaijan has also revealed footage of its drone strikes on Armenian positions. 

Multiple states such as France, Russia, and the US have called for a cessation of hostilities through the “Minsk Group”, a group dedicated to resolving the dispute between the two countries. 

Although many international states have called for peace and dialogue, Turkey has taken a different approach by supporting its ally Azerbaijan.

Image Credit: Twitter

President Erdogan called on Armenia to end its “occupation” of Azeri territory, and the Turkish Foreign Ministry tweeted: “Armenia is the root cause of instability in the region”. 

On Monday 28 September, both Reuters and the Guardian reported that Turkey had sent Syrian National Army (SNA) fighters to fight alongside Azerbaijan in the conflict. These reports – denied by both Azerbaijan and Turkey – have been backed up by analysts, who have confirmed through their Syrian sources that members of the SNA have been sent and have been killed in the recent fighting. 

The following day, Armenia claimed that a Turkish F-16 shot down an Armenian SU-25 in Armenian territory. The Armenian military has since published pictures of the wreckage of the aircraft. Both Turkey and Azerbaijan have denied these claims. 

Civilians have also been caught up in the conflict. Both Armenia and Azerbaijan have reported civilian casualties as a result of shelling from either side. Most recently, the city of Stepanakert, the largest city in Nagorno-Karabakh, has come under shelling from Azeri forces. Two French journalists have also been injured by Azeri shelling. 

Outbreaks of violence have occurred since the cessation of hostilities in 1994, with the most violent outbreak occurring in 2016 for four days. This round of violence has been the most intense since 2016 and has escalated much quicker. 

As of writing the conflict is ongoing.

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