Nagorno-Karabakh public television broadcast images of civilians fleeing explosions and gunfire in a street in Stepanakert on September 19. ARTSAKH PUBLIC TV / REUTERS
Azerbaijan announced on Tuesday September 19 that it had launched a military operation, described as“anti-terrorist”, aimed at “Armenian forces” in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Detonations were heard by an Agence France-Presse journalist in the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, Stepanakert.
« Anti-terrorist operations have begun in the region. As part of these measures, the positions of the Armenian armed forces (…) are put out of harm’s way using high-precision weapons on the front line and in depth”the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said in a statement.
Armenian separatist authorities have confirmed a “large-scale military operation against the Republic of Artsakh [le nom donné par les Arméniens au Haut-Karabakh] ». Stepanakert, and other towns in the region are targeted by “intensive shooting”added the representation of separatists in Armenia, on Facebook.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said Azerbaijan had launched an armed ground operation and wanted “drag Armenia into hostilities”ensuring however that the Armenian army was not engaged in the fighting.
“Azerbaijan launched a ground operation aimed at ethnic cleansing of Karabakh Armenians”specified Mr. Pashinian in a televised statement, assuring that the situation at the border was, for its part, « stable » and that Armenia was not “not engaged in armed actions”.
The separatist forces of Nagorno-Karabakh claimed, for their part, to try to ” resist “ to the Azerbaijani army which is trying to advance ” in depth “ in the enclave. “The Azerbaijani armed forces are trying to advance in depth (…) Defense forces continue to resist Azerbaijan’s offensive across the entire line of contact »they said on X (formerly Twitter).
The Baku authorities added that they considered peace possible, on condition of an Armenian withdrawal « total ». “The only way to achieve peace and stability in the region is the unconditional and complete withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from the Azerbaijani Karabakh region and the dissolution of the so-called regime” separatist, declared the Azerbaijani diplomacy in a statement. The Armenian Ministry of Defense assuredfor its part, not having armed forces deployed in the region, condemning the “false statements” de Bakou.
Azerbaijani authorities have announced the establishment of humanitarian corridors for civilians in Nagorno-Karabakh. “In order to allow the evacuation of the population from the dangerous zone, humanitarian corridors and reception points have been set up on the Lachin road and in other directions”said the Ministry of Defense in a press release.
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Russia called on Azerbaijan and Armenia to “end the bloodshed” in Nagorno-Karabakh and to return to “a peaceful settlement”. “All stages of a peaceful solution are set out in the agreements signed in 2020 and 2022”added the spokesperson for Russian diplomacy, Maria Zakharova.
Hours earlier, Azerbaijani authorities announced the deaths of four police officers and two Azerbaijani civilians in a mine explosion in Nagorno-Karabakh, and accused a group of « saboteurs » Armenian separatists for having committed these acts of “terrorism”.
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Four police officers and two civilians killed in mine explosion
These six people were killed when their vehicle exploded on mines on a road between Shusha (Shushi, for Armenians) and Fizuli, two towns in Nagorno-Karabakh under Azerbaijani control, Azerbaijani security services said. According to them, the police officers were killed around 4:30 a.m. (2:30 a.m. in Paris) in a tunnel in the Khojavend district while they were going to the scene of the explosion of an anti-tank mine which had hit the vehicle of the two civilians in the same area. The two civilians killed were employees of the Azerbaijani roads agency, security services said.
These new deadly incidents come as a step towards easing tensions in Nagorno-Karabakh was recently accomplished with the arrival of humanitarian aid in this secessionist region.
Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers Nagorno-Karabakh: a Russian humanitarian aid truck reaches Stepanakert
“Deterioration of the humanitarian situation”
At the beginning of August, Armenia called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations (UN) Security Council in the face of the “deterioration of the humanitarian situation” In the region. The Lachin corridor, the only land link between Armenia and Karabakh, was first obstructed by Azerbaijanis posing as environmental demonstrators, before Baku set up, on July 11, a road blockade at the entrance to this road citing security reasons.
At the UN Security Council meeting on August 16, France, the United Kingdom and the United States urged Baku to ensure free movement on the Lachin road, but no declaration or resolution was made. was voted on at the end of the meeting – a semi-failure for the Armenians.
Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous region with an Armenian majority located in Azerbaijan, was the scene of two wars in the early 1990s, then in the fall of 2020. It is one of the most mined areas in the former USSR . Explosions regularly cause casualties there.
Read the editorial: Azerbaijan’s blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh must end
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