Armenia, Azerbaijan Fight Over Disputed Territory
Fighting broke out on September 27 between Armenia and Azerbaijan and has continued into September 28, leaving at least 24 people dead.
The clashes – the worst in years – are over the long-disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but broke away in 1991 and is controlled by ethnic Armenians, who have declared it as the Republic of Artsakh.
Armenia receives gas from Russia via pipelines that were damaged during the 2016 spat with Azerbaijan. No pipeline damage has been reported yet from the current fighting.
Armenia's defence ministry said fighting had continued during the night September 27-28. It has accused Azerbaijan of air and artillery attacks, and has reported downing helicopters and destroying tanks. Armenia has also declared martial law and total military mobilisation. Azerbaijan said September 28 it had begun a counter-offensive, after reporting that Armenian forces were shelling the town of Terter.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have no diplomatic relations, having fought two wars over disputed territory in 1918-1921 and 1988-1994. The last serious clashes occurred in April 2016, continuing for four days and leaving at least 200 dead. Russia has traditionally supported Armenia, even while maintaining good relations with Azerbaijan. Meanwhile Turkey backs Azerbaijan.
In a series of tweets, Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan defended the right of the Nagorno-Karabakh region of self-determination, describing Armenia as the guarantor of its security and independence. He accused Azerbaijan of "pre-planned aggression."
"I call on the international community to use all of its influence to halt any possible interference by Turkey, which will ultimately destabilise the situation in the region. This is fraught with the most devastating consequences for the South Caucasus and neighbouring regions," Pashinyan said. "We will make every possible effort to ensure borders of our homeland are secure, to protect our freedom and independence."
Azeri president Ilham Aliyev accused Armenia of preparing for war. Armenia started the fighting, causing Azeri military and civilian casualties, he said, and Azeri forces retaliated. "Today, Azerbaijan's army defends the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan on its soil. Armenia is an occupying state, and an end to this occupation must and will be put," he tweeted. "We are on the righteous path! Ours is the just cause! We will be victorious! Karabakh is ours! Karabakh is Azerbaijan!"
Azerbaijan is a significant hydrocarbon producer, extracting over 24.3bn m3 of gas and around 780,000 b/d of oil last year. The bulk of its output comes from the offshore Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli and Shah Deniz fields operated by BP, which export their production westwards via pipelines through Georgia and Turkey.