Friday, 2 October 2020

Armenia says it will work with mediators to achieve a ceasefire with Azerbaijan - as Macron demands Turkey explains use of 'Syrian jihadists' in disputed region

 Armenia has expressed its readiness to work with international mediators to clinch a ceasefire with Azerbaijan over the breakaway Nagorny-Karabakh region where fierce fighting has entered a sixth day.

The country 'stands ready' to engage with France, Russia, and the United States, who co-chair the OSCE group of mediators to the conflict, 'to re-establish a ceasefire regime,' foreign ministry in Yerevan said. 

The announcement comes as French President Emmanuel Macron demanded that Turkey explains the use of 'Syrian jihadists' in the disputed region.

Macron said intelligence reports had established that 300 fighters from 'jihadist groups' in Syria had passed through Turkey en route to Azerbaijan. 

He added that 'a red line has been crossed, which is unacceptable' and demanded an explanation from Ankara. 

France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told his Azerbaijani and Armenian counterparts in a telephone call that a failure to halt the fighting would 'bring the risk of an out of control escalation,' his office said.

He also warned them 'over the risk that an internationalisation of the conflict' would represent. 

Azerbaijani forces earlier today struck Stepanakert, the main city in Azerbaijan's breakaway Nagorny Karabakh region, wounding 'many' people, an Armenian official confirmed.

'There are many wounded among [the city's] civilian population, civilian infrastructure is damaged,' Yerevan-based defence ministry spokesman Artsrun Hovhannisyan said on Facebook without providing further details.  

Armenia has expressed its readiness to work with international mediators to clinch a ceasefire with Azerbaijan over the breakaway Nagorny-Karabakh region where fierce fighting has entered a sixth day. Pictured: Image purporting to show an attack the Armenian army's artillery gun by Azerbaijan's forces

Armenia has expressed its readiness to work with international mediators to clinch a ceasefire with Azerbaijan over the breakaway Nagorny-Karabakh region where fierce fighting has entered a sixth day. Pictured: Image purporting to show an attack the Armenian army's artillery gun by Azerbaijan's forces

Armenia 'stands ready' to engage with France, Russia, and the United States. Pictured: Image purporting to show an attack the Armenian army's artillery gun by Azerbaijan's forces

Armenia 'stands ready' to engage with France, Russia, and the United States. Pictured: Image purporting to show an attack the Armenian army's artillery gun by Azerbaijan's forces

Armenia's tentative move toward a ceasefire comes after the country claimed to have evidence that Turkish drones and F-16 jets had been bombing civilian areas.  

'We have proof,' Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, told French newspaper Le Figaro. 

'They are using drones and Turkish F-16 (fighter jets) to bomb civilian areas in Nagorny Karabakh'.

His country has previously accused Turkey of sending mercenaries to back its ally Azerbaijan.     

Yesterday, the presidents of America, Russia and France in a joint statement called for a return to negotiations without delay.

'We call for an immediate cessation of hostilities between the relevant military forces,' the three presidents said in their capacity as co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. 

'We also call on the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan to commit without delay to resuming substantive negotiations, in good faith and without preconditions, under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs.'

The announcement comes as French President Emmanuel Macron (pictured) demanded that Turkey explains the use of 'Syrian jihadists' in the disputed region

The announcement comes as French President Emmanuel Macron (pictured) demanded that Turkey explains the use of 'Syrian jihadists' in the disputed region

The group was set up in 1992 to mediate a peaceful resolution over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave in the South Caucasus. 

But Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan later said that it was unacceptable that the countries were involved in a search for a ceasefire in the disputed region given they neglected problems there for some 30 years.

Erdogan also repeated that he expected a 'full Armenian withdrawal' from Nagorno-Karabakh if there is to be lasting peace in the region.     

Russia has since suggested it had been making progress in diplomatic efforts with Turkey.

It said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu had confirmed they were ready for 'close coordination' to stabilise the situation.

Armenia and Karabakh declared martial law and military mobilisation on Sunday - while Azerbaijan imposed military rule and a curfew in large cities.  

Nearly 200 people have since been confirmed killed, including more than 30 civilians, and there are fears of the fighting expanding into an all-out, multi-front war that could suck in regional powers Turkey and Russia.

The defence ministry of Karabakh's separatist government reported the deaths of 54 more of its troops as of today.

It said there was fighting all along the frontline after 'a relatively calmer night'.

Azerbaijan's defence ministry also said the fighting was ongoing and both sides claimed to have inflicted heavy losses.     

Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry released footage purporting to show Azerbaijan's forces attacking an Armenian army's tank during fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh region

Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry released footage purporting to show Azerbaijan's forces attacking an Armenian army's tank during fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh region

Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Emmanuel Macron have all called for an immediate ceasefire in Karabakh as Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan demanded 'full Armenian withdrawal'
Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Emmanuel Macron have all called for an immediate ceasefire in Karabakh as Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan demanded 'full Armenian withdrawal'
Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Emmanuel Macron have all called for an immediate ceasefire in Karabakh as Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan demanded 'full Armenian withdrawal'

Donald Trump (left), Vladimir Putin (centre) and Emmanuel Macron have all called for an immediate ceasefire in Karabakh as Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan (right) demanded 'full Armenian withdrawal'

State Border Service of Azerbaijan release bizarre music video
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It comes after local media reported that two French journalists were injured by shelling in the Armenian town of Martuni. 

The two French nationals working for France's Le Monde newspaper had been wounded during Azeri shelling. 

An Armenian government source said they were in grave condition.

Television footage released by the Ankara-based Anadolu Agency showed reporters running for cover behind a wall at an unidentified location in Nagorno-Karabakh after what it said was Armenian shelling. Loud blasts could be heard in the background. 

A car carrying journalists (pictured) was allegedly shelled by Azeri forces in the town of Martuni, in the self-proclaimed Nagomo-Karabakh Republicon Thursday

A car carrying journalists (pictured) was allegedly shelled by Azeri forces in the town of Martuni, in the self-proclaimed Nagomo-Karabakh Republicon Thursday

Blood was spattered across the Nissan Micra after the attack which occurred yesterday

Blood was spattered across the Nissan Micra after the attack which occurred yesterday

The two French journalists were injured in the attack, according to local media

The two French journalists were injured in the attack, according to local media 

Russia had also previously accused Turkey of sending Syrian and Libyan fighters from illegal armed groups into the Nagorno-Karabakh region. 

Russia called on the countries involved to prevent the use of 'foreign terrorists and mercenaries' in the conflict.

Two Syrian rebel sources have said that Turkey is sending Syrian rebel fighters to support Azerbaijan, which Turkey and Azerbaijan have denied. 

Earlier this week Armenia revealed photos of the wreckage of its SU-25 fighter jet which it claims was shot down by a Turkish  F-16 amid accusations that Ankara is throwing its military might behind Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan also announced it had 'neutralised' 2,300 Armenian soldiers in the worst eruption of violence between the two countries since a 1994 ceasefire over an Azerbaijani territory which is largely inhabited by Armenians.  

Azerbaijan's forces allegedly destroyed Armenian army's multiple rocket launcher during fighting (pictured)

Azerbaijan's forces allegedly destroyed Armenian army's multiple rocket launcher during fighting (pictured)

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan repeated that Armenia must withdraw from Nagorno-Karabakh. Pictured: Image purporting to show a rocket shell in the Ivanyan community in the breakaway Nagorny-Karabakh region

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan repeated that Armenia must withdraw from Nagorno-Karabakh. Pictured: Image purporting to show a rocket shell in the Ivanyan community in the breakaway Nagorny-Karabakh region

Despite Azerbaijan and Turkey denying that an F-16 had downed Armenia's SU-25, the defence ministry in Yerevan named its dead pilot as Major Valeri Danelin and published photos of the jet painted in the Armenian Air Force colours, smouldering on a mountainside.

Turkey has been stridently backing Muslim Azerbaijan, raising fears that Russia - which has a military base in Christian Armenia - could be drawn into a proxy war after Moscow and Anakara came close to trading blows in Syria last year.

French President Emmanuel Macron slammed Turkey's fighting talk as 'reckless and dangerous' after Ankara pledged its full support for Azerbaijan to reclaim the ethnically-Armenian Nagorno-Karabakh territory.

The Kremlin, which also wields influence over the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan, has called on the hostilities to be 'immediately ended' and warned Turkey not to 'add fuel to the flames.'


Macron on Wednesday pledged his support to Yerevan, telling reporters: 'I say to Armenia and to the Armenians, France will play its role.

But the French President also said it was too soon to speak of a regional conflict.

He said he would discuss the tensions with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday evening and US President Donald Trump on Thursday before reporting on the situation to the European Council of EU leaders. 

Armenia revealed photos of the wreckage of its SU-25 fighter jet which it claims was shot down by a Turkish F-16 over the the Caucasus Mountains
Armenia revealed photos of the wreckage of its SU-25 fighter jet which it claims was shot down by a Turkish F-16 over the the Caucasus Mountains

Armenia revealed photos of the wreckage of its SU-25 fighter jet which it claims was shot down by a Turkish F-16 over the the Caucasus Mountains

The colours of the Armenian flag painted in a roundel on the plane's fuselage
Identification markings on the fuselage

The colours of the Armenian flag painted in a roundel on the plane's fuselage (left) and identification markings (right)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that Moscow was willing to host the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan for talks, a ministry statement cited him as saying.

He said Russia would continue to work both independently and together with other representatives of the Minsk group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to mediate in the conflict. 

Ethnic-Armenian separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh are fighting for secession from Turkish-backed Azerbaijan and the dispute has led to decades of unresolved violence.  

Erdogan's aide Fahrettin Altun has said that Turkey 'stands with Azerbaijan, our friend and brethren' despite UN condemnation for the violence. 

'Let there be no doubt that the world will hear our roar if Azerbaijan were to suffer from the slightest injustice under international law,' he said on Tuesday.

Azerbaijan also aired footage of two Armenian tanks being blown up on the battlefield, while Armenia claimed to have taken out 80 armoured vehicles, 49 drones and four helicopters in the latest fighting which has killed dozens of people, allegedly including civilians.

However, Altun dismissed the F-16 claim as 'absolutely untrue' while Azerbaijan described it as 'yet another lie of Armenian propaganda'. 'Armenia should withdraw from the territories under its occupation instead of resorting to cheap propaganda tricks,' Altun said.   

Turkey denies that one of its F-16 fighter jets was involved in a dog fight, but Armenia has named Major Valeri Danelin as their dead pilot
Turkey denies that one of its F-16 fighter jets was involved in a dog fight, but Armenia has named Major Valeri Danelin as their dead pilot

Turkey denies that one of its F-16 fighter jets was involved in a dog fight, but Armenia has named Major Valeri Danelin as their dead pilot (the wreckage pictured on the mountainside)

Tensions continue to mount as Azerbaijan & Armenian forces fight
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Russian-backed Armenia warned that it would deploy more destructive weapons in the conflict because of what it described as an Azerbaijani offensive, saying the fighting had been 'elevated to a new level'. 

Armenia last night accused Turkey of 'supporting Azerbaijan to carry out genocidal acts', a reference to the early 20th-century massacre which it calls the Armenian Genocide and which still poisons relations between Turkey and Armenia. 

Both nations have accused each other of firing into each other's territory beyond the Karabakh region, raising fears of an all-out war which could draw in nuclear-armed Russia.  

The Kremlin has a military base in Armenia but has called for the hostilities to be 'immediately ended' - warning Turkey not to 'add fuel to the flames' by raising the prospect of intervention. 

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said Tuesday that 'both sides need to stop the violence' while German chancellor Angela Merkel called for an 'immediate ceasefire' and France called for a revival of peace talks.

Martial law has been declared in both countries and Armenia has banned men over 18 in its military reserves from leaving the country as the warfare continues despite global appeals for calm. 

Crossroads between the Middle East and Russia: The fighting is in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh of Azerbaijan which is controlled by separatists allied to Armenia. Turkey borders Armenia but is an ally of Azerbaijan, and Ankara's support for Baku is the latest military adventure in the region after incursions into Syria and Libya. Both Armenia and Azerbaijan are former Soviet republics that border Iran. Moscow has called for both sides to stop the fighting

Crossroads between the Middle East and Russia: The fighting is in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh of Azerbaijan which is controlled by separatists allied to Armenia. Turkey borders Armenia but is an ally of Azerbaijan, and Ankara's support for Baku is the latest military adventure in the region after incursions into Syria and Libya. Both Armenia and Azerbaijan are former Soviet republics that border Iran. Moscow has called for both sides to stop the fighting


Azerbaijan's defence ministry said earlier this week that the opposing forces attempted to recover lost ground by launching counter-attacks in the directions of Fizuli, Jabrayil, Agdere and Terter. 

The ministry said there was fighting around Fizuli on Tueday morning and the Armenian army shelled the Dashkesan region on the border between the two countries, miles away from Nagorno-Karabakh. 

Armenia denied those claims, but reported fighting throughout the night and said that Nagorno-Karabakh's army repelled attacks in several directions along the line of contact. 

Both sides blame each other for causing the latest flare-up, with Armenia claiming that the separatists in Nagorny-Karabakh are resisting a 'thoroughly planned attack'. 

'Defence forces of Nagorno-Karabakh are left with little option but to defend themselves,' Armenia's foreign ministry claimed.  

Military leaders in the Armenian enclave say that 84 servicemen on their side have been killed so far, while both sides blame the other for alleged civilian deaths. 

Azerbaijan says 10 civilians have died on its side, but has yet to give details on military casualties. 

Armenia claimed on Tuesday that a nine-year-old girl was killed in shelling, while her mother and a brother were wounded, while Azerbaijan says five members of a family died in the gunfire.  

Armenia's defence ministry said a civilian bus was set on fire after being hit by an Azerbaijani unmanned drone. 

Armenia accuses its enemy of using Smerch and TOS-1A rocket launchers, saying it was forced to use 'military hardware with larger power' in response.    

'Since early morning the Azerbaijani side resumed large-scale offensive ops. TOS-1A heavy flamethrowers are being employed. The use of TOS, Smerch and other large-caliber systems changes the philosophy and the scale of mil ops, elevating them to a new level of escalation,' claimed defence spokeswoman Shushan Stepanyan. 

As a result, Armenian forces are 'compelled to use pieces of equipment and munitions designed to engage wide area targets, intended for large and indiscriminate destruction of manpower, and static and mobile property alike,' she warned. 

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan came down firmly on the side of Azerbaijan, which shares ethnic, cultural and linguistic ties with the larger power. 

'The time has come for the crisis in the region that started with the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh to be put to an end,' Erdogan said. 'Now Azerbaijan must take matters into its own hands.' 

Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev on Monday ordered partial military mobilisation and General Mais Barkhudarov vowed to 'fight to the last drop of blood in order to completely destroy the enemy and win'. 

Armenia has accused Turkey of sending mercenaries to back Azerbaijan, a claim which Erdogan's government denies. 

Turkey informed the fighters they would be tasked with 'guarding border regions' in Azerbaijan in return for wages of up to $2,000, said Rami Abdul Rahman, the head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Anna Naghdalyan, a spokeswoman for Armenia's foreign ministry, said people in Nagorno-Karabakh were 'fighting against a Turkish-Azerbaijani alliance'. 

'Turkey, which a century ago annihilated Armenian people in their historical homeland and justifies that crime, now supports Azerbaijan by all possible means to carry out same genocidal acts in South Caucasus,' she said. 

Armenian video showing their armed forces destroying enemy UAV
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As many as 1.5million Armenians were rounded up and killed by their Turkish rulers in mass killings which started during World War I, but Turkey fiercely disputes the term 'genocide'. 

Turkey has also conducted drills with F-16 jets in Azerbaijan, but Baku denied claims that it has any of the fighter planes or that one been involved in a shootdown.

Russia has previously supplied Armenia with weapons in the sensitive region, where pipelines shipping Caspian oil and natural gas from Azerbaijan to the world pass close to Nagorno-Karabakh.


Russian President Vladimir Putin had previously urged the opposing sides in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to hold their fire, during a conversation with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, the Kremlin said in a statement.

Putin emphasised the urgent need for a ceasefire and for all sides to take measures to de-escalate the crisis, the Kremlin said. 

Azerbaijani state energy company SOCAR said that the country's oil and gas infrastructure was safe thanks to measures taken by the army.  

The report of Turkish intervention comes after the European Union warned regional powers not to interfere in the fighting and condemned a 'serious escalation' that threatens regional stability. 

Omer Celika , spokesman for Erdogan's ruling party, denied reports that Turkey had sent arms or foreign fighters to Azerbaijan.

'Armenia is disturbed by Turkey's solidarity with Azerbaijan and is producing lies against Turkey,' Celik said. 

Erdogan criticized France, the US and Russia - the three chairs of the so-called Minsk group that was set up in 1992 to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict - saying they had failed to resolve the issue for 30 years.

'They have done their best not to solve this issue. And now they come and counsel and issue threats. They say, is Turkey here, is the Turkish military here?,' Erdogan said. 

France had warned previously it would 'trigger a co-ordination of the Minsk Group' in the coming days to 'find a way out' of the crisis.  

Armenia and Karabakh declared martial law and military mobilisation on Sunday, while Azerbaijan imposed military rule and a curfew in large cities. 

Analysts warn that the conflict could escalate into a proxy conflict between Moscow and Ankara, who both wield influence in Syria and Libya already. 

Michael Carpenter, a former Pentagon official, said any Turkish involvement would be 'hugely destabilising' and 'could lead to a proxy war between Turkey and Russia'. 

Rita Katz, director of the SITE Intelligence monitoring group, said the two countries 'continue to vie for control across region, backing proxies on contentious non-secular lines' - referring to the fact that Azerbaijan is a majority-Muslim country, while most Armenians are Christians. 

In addition to the EU and Russia, France, Germany, Italy and the United States have urged a ceasefire.  

President Donald Trump said on Sunday that the United States would seek to end the violence. 'We're looking at it very strongly,' he told a news briefing. 'We have a lot of good relationships in that area. We'll see if we can stop it.' 

Democratic nominee Joe Biden urged the White House to push for more observers along the ceasefire line and accused Russia of 'cynically providing arms to both sides.'  

Erdogan last night discussed the crisis in a phone call with British PM Boris Johnson, with Downing Street calling for 'urgent de-escalation in the region'. 

German chancellor Angela Merkel - who has clashed with Erdogan in the past - has called for an 'immediate ceasefire and a return to the negotiating table' after speaking with the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan. 

Five European countries - Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany and Britain - asked for a closed-door meeting of the UN Security Council on the escalating conflict on Tuesday.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke to both countries' leaders and called for 'an immediate stop to the fighting, a de-escalation of tensions and a return to meaningful negotiations without preconditions or delay. 

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the situation 'is a cause for concern for Moscow and other countries.'

'We believe that the hostilities should be immediately ended,' Peskov said, adding that the process of resolving the conflict should shift into 'a politico-diplomatic' dimension. 

Nuclear-armed Russia has a military base in Armenia and considers it to be a strategic partner in the South Caucasus region, supplying the ex-Soviet country with weapons. 

The Kremlin has cast itself as a mediator but Azerbaijan claimed last month that Moscow was 'intensively arming Armenia' after earlier clashes in July.  

Hostilities this year have been the worst since 2016, when intense fighting killed dozens and threatened to escalate into all-out war. 

Nagorno-Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan in a conflict that broke out as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

Although a ceasefire was agreed in 1994, after thousands of people were killed and many more displaced, Azerbaijan and Armenia frequently accuse each other of attacks around Nagorno-Karabakh and along the separate Azeri-Armenian frontier. 

During the worst recent Karabakh clashes in April 2016, around 110 people were killed. 

In July 2020, heavy clashes along the two countries' shared border - hundreds of miles from Karabakh - claimed the lives of at least 17 soldiers from both sides. 

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