A new flood of fighting broke out in region of Nagorno-Karabakh on Saturday, butchering dozens & drawing international calls for an instant ceasefire to stop the violence that is spreading in South Caucasus.
The ethnic Armenians control Nagorno-Karabakh that lies inside Azerbaijan. It run its own affairs with the heavy military & the financial backing from Armenia since the separatist war ended in 1994.
On Saturday, the Azeri defence ministry said that the army “liberated strategic heights & settlements” in region.
“6 Armenian tanks were destroyed and over 100 Armenian servicemen were killed & wounded,” it said in a statement.
Armenia’s govt. denied the report on number of casualties. Serzh Sarksyan, the Armenian President stated to a State Security Council meeting that around 18 were killed & 35 wounded. It wasn’t immediately clear if the death toll involved soldiers only.
On Saturday, Nagorno-Karabakh’s military said that anti-aircraft forces of Armenia had downed an Azeri helicopter.
Both sides however reported the civilian casualties & accused each other of violating 1994 ceasefire, a sign that the 2-decade-old conflict that has left some 30,000 people dead is far from peaceful resolution.
The violence has forced Russia that was a chief negotiator in the conflict, to step up the diplomatic efforts to extinguish it.
Vladimir Putin, the Russian President urged the combatant sides to immediately ceasefire & “to exercise the restraint so as to avert new human casualties,” Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesperson was quoted as saying.
Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister & Sergei Shoigu, the Defense Minister talked by phone with their Azeri & Armenian counterparts.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German Foreign Minister had meanwhile, called both sides “to immediately stop fighting & to fully respect the ceasefire.”
Azerbaijan recurrently threatens to take retake Nagorno-Karabakh by force. The Clashes around the region fuelled worries of a flared conflict breaking out in region that is crossed by the natural gas and oil pipelines.
John Kerry – the U.S. Secretary of State, on Saturday called for “an ultimate resolution” of conflict during the talks with Ilham Aliyev, the Azeri President at State Department