YEREVAN (Armenia): A soldier fires an artillery piece towards Azeri positions during fighting on Tuesday.—AFP
YEREVAN (Armenia): A soldier fires an artillery piece towards Azeri positions during fighting on Tuesday.—AFP

YEREVAN: Armenia said on Tuesday that a Turkish fighter jet had shot down one of its warplanes during heavy fighting with Turkey’s ally Azerbaijan, but Ankara fiercely denied the claim.

Direct Turkish military action against Armenia would mark a major escalation after three days of heavy fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces over the breakaway region of Nagorny Karabakh.

The two sides have defied calls for a ceasefire over Karabakh — an ethnic Armenian enclave that broke from Azerbaijan in the 1990s — and are both claiming to have inflicted heavy losses on opposing forces.

Ankara has backed Azerbaijan in the conflict and on Tuesday the Armenian defence ministry said a Turkish F-16 flying in support of Baku’s forces downed an Armenian SU-25 warplane.

Ministry spokeswoman Shushan Stepanyan said the Turkish jet was supporting Azerbaijani aviation bombing civilian settlements in Armenia when it shot down the Armenian plane, killing the pilot.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s top press aide called the claim “absolutely untrue”.

“Armenia should withdraw from the territories under its occupation instead of resorting to cheap propaganda tricks,” said the aide, Fahrettin Altun. Azerbaijani defence ministry spokesman Vagif Dyargahly also called the claim “yet another lie of Armenian propaganda”.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked for decades in a territorial dispute over Karabakh and have blamed each other for sparking fierce clashes that erupted on Sunday and have since caused nearly 100 confirmed deaths.

Foreign powers including the United States and Russia have called for an immediate ceasefire and a return to negotiations over the future of Karabakh that have been stalled for years.

The UN Security Council was scheduled to meet on Tuesday for an emergency meeting on the escalation, but neither side showed any signs of standing down.

Published in Dawn, September 30th, 2020