YEREVAN: Armenia and Azerbaijan reported nearly 100 troop deaths on Tuesday in their worst fighting since a 2020 war over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The last wave of fighting over Azerbaijan’s tense Armenian-populated enclave ended in a fragile truce brokered by Russia.

But on Tuesday, the Azeri defence ministry said “50 Azerbaijani servicemen died as a result of Armenia’s large-scale provocation”, while Armenia earlier reported the deaths of at least 49 of its soldiers.

Azerbaijan accused Armenia of violating the ceasefire after a night of clashes that renewed fears of another all-out conflict between the historic foes.

Ankara sides with Baku; United States, Russia call for peace

Russia said it had reached a ceasefire between the warring parties that brought several hours of relative calm, but Azerbaijan later accused Armenian forces of “intensely” violating the agreement.

Armenia appealed to world leaders for help after the fighting broke out, accusing Azerbaijan of trying to advance on its territory.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the leaders of both countries, with his spokesman saying Washington would “push for an immediate halt to fighting and a peace settlement” between the neighbours.

French President Emmanuel Macron called his Azerbaijan counterpart Ilham Aliyev to express “great concern” and urge a “return to respecting the ceasefire”.

He also called for intensified negotiations and offered to contribute along with the European Union, the Elysee said.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan had earlier spoken with Macron, as well as calling Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Blinken to demand a response to “Azerbaijan’s aggressive acts”.

Tuesday’s escalation came as Arme­nia’s closest ally Russia — which deployed thousands of peacekeepers in the region after the 2020 war — is distracted by its six-month-old invasion of Ukraine.

Armenia’s defence ministry said clashes had subsided after the ceasefire, but that the situation on the border was still “extremely tense”.

Meanwhile, Turkiye firmly sided with its regional ally Azerbaijan in the latest deadly outbreak of violence in the Caucasus, telling Armenia to “cease its provocations” against Baku.

“Armenia should cease its provocations and focus on peace negotiations and cooperation with Azerbaijan,” Turkiye Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted after a phone call with Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov.

Ankara backed Baku in the 2020 conflict, supplying it with combat drones that helped Azerbaijan claw back large parts of the territory it lost in Nagorno-Karabakh in a brutal war that followed the Soviet Union’s breakup in 1991.

Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2022

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