The situation worsens day by day in the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, a separatist enclave of Azerbaijan, populated by 150,000 inhabitants, mostly Armenians.
Yerevan and Baku continue to blame each other for the attacks which killed nearly a hundred people in four days, raising fears of an internationalization of hostilities in an area where powers such as Russia, Turkey and Iran are already in control. competition.
Syrian insurgents in Azerbaijan
Moscow said on Wednesday (September 30th) that Syrian and Libyan fighters belonging to illegal armed groups had been sent to the region, plagued by intense fighting between the Azerbaijani army and pro-Armenian separatists. Without specifying its accusations, Russia urged the countries involved in the conflict to avoid using “Foreign terrorists and mercenaries” and said to herself “Deeply concerned about processes that could cause tensions to escalate”.
Two sources close to the Syrian insurgents told Reuters news agency that Turkey had sent rebels to support Azerbaijani forces. An investigation by the British daily The Guardian, published on Monday, claimed that Syrian rebels had been hired by a private Turkish security company to join Azerbaijan.
Syrian journalist Hussein Akoush then published Tuesday on his Twitter account a photograph of one of these fighters, Muhammad Shaalan, from Al-Atarib in the Aleppo region. Sent by the Turks to Azerbaijan a week ago with the promise of a good salary, he was killed in the fighting between Armenians and Azerbaijanis.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed on Sunday that mercenaries from factions backed by Ankara in Syria had indeed been deployed to fight alongside the Azerbaijani army. Yerevan had also accused Syrian allies of Turkey of having been recruited to fight on the Nagorno-Karabakh front, which Baku had denied, accusing in return of deploying veterans of the Syrian conflict.
Turkey is the only power not to have called for a ceasefire, encouraging, on the contrary, its Azerbaijani ally to regain control of Karabakh by force and declaring its determination to help it. “To recover its occupied lands and to defend its rights and interests according to international law”, thus scolding Armenia, its historical adversary. The Kremlin on Tuesday called on Turkish authorities to refrain from throwing “Oil on the fire” and to work for peace.
Putin and Macron call for an end to the fighting
Russian Presidents Vladimir Putin and French Presidents Emmanuel Macron called for a stop “Complete” fighting in Karabakh and expressed their readiness to step up diplomatic efforts to help resolve the conflict, the Kremlin said.
“Vladimir Poutine and Emmanuel Macron called on the parties to the conflict to, as soon as possible, reduce tensions and show maximum restraint”, said the Russian Presidency. The two presidents said to each other “Willing” the adoption of a communiqué to be issued on behalf of the co-chairs of the Minsk group on Karabakh and call for an end “Immediate” hostilities and at the start of talks, the Kremlin added.
Arms pass between Paris and Ankara
On Sunday, fighting continued on Wednesday between Azerbaijan and the forces of the Armenian-majority region of Nagorno-Karabakh, the most violent since a ceasefire concluded in 1994, amid growing diplomatic tensions between Paris and Ankara.
“France remains extremely concerned about the warlike messages that Turkey has had in recent hours, basically uninhibiting Azerbaijan in what would be a reconquest of North Karabakh, and that we will not accept”, reacted Wednesday Emmanuel Macron.
The French head of state said he would have talks with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, on Wednesday evening, and with US President Donald Trump on Thursday, before reporting on the situation to the European Council. “I say to Armenia and the Armenians, France will be in its role”, insisted Mr. Macron.
Ankara reacted strongly to his comments: “The solidarity expressed by Macron towards Armenia, while he does not care for the territories of Azerbaijan, means that he supports the occupation”, said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu.
“We are on the verge of a full-scale war, maybe even on a regional scale”, worries Olesya Vartanyan, analyst for the International Crisis Group. Human rights NGOs Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, for their part, called on the belligerents not to ” to aim “ civilian populations.
On Wednesday, Russia’s foreign minister offered to host talks on the breakaway region. In separate telephone conversations with his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts, Sergey Lavrov had then “Confirmed Moscow’s availability to organize the necessary contacts, including a meeting”.
But Yerevan deemed the idea of talks with Baku premature. Prime Minister Nikol Pachinian closed the door to immediate peace negotiations, hours after a unanimous UN Security Council vote calling for an end to hostilities and “Resume negotiations without delay”.
“It is inappropriate to speak of an Armenia-Azerbaijan-Russia summit when intense fighting is ongoing”, he replied to Russian media questioning him, according to Interfax. “For negotiations, we need the right atmosphere and conditions”, he argued.
For its part, Azerbaijani diplomacy said on Wednesday it would continue its military operations until the Armenian forces withdraw. As long as “We will not clearly see the Armenian troops leaving the territory of Azerbaijan, we will continue our legitimate military operation”, said the country’s representation at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
According to official reports, probably very partial, the massive fighting that erupted on Sunday claimed the lives of 98 people, including 81 Armenian separatist fighters and 17 civilians on both sides of the front. Azerbaijan has not reported any military losses, and both sides blame each other for the hostilities.
The death toll promises to be much higher. The Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense indicates that “Intense fighting continues” Wednesday, and that since the weekend 2,300 Armenian separatists have been killed.