Weak Russia: Azerbaijan says it will continue the Nagorno-Karabakh offensive until Armenian military surrender

Azerbaijan’s Presidential Office said on Sept. 19 that it would continue the military operation against Nagorno-Karabakh until “the illegal Armenian military formations” surrender.

Earlier, Armenia denounced the offensive and claimed that Armenian forces are not stationed in Nagorno-Karabakh and do not participate in hostilities. Baku also claimed it’s ready to meet with representatives of Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenian population in the Azerbaijani city of Yevlakh.

Earlier on Sept. 19, Azerbaijan launched a military operation in Nagorno-Karabakh with the claimed “goal of restoring the constitutional order.”

According to the latest information published by the Ombudsman of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, 25 people have been killed as a result of the hostilities and another 138 have been injured.

Nagorno-Karabakh is recognized as Azerbaijan’s territory under international law. Its population of 120,000 is predominantly Armenian. The territory declared independence in 1991 with Yerevan’s military support. Until 2020, Armenia de facto controlled Nagorno-Karabakh together with the surrounding regions.

In 2020, Azerbaijan launched a military operation establishing control over parts of Nagorno Karabakh.

In November 2020, Russia brokered an armistice between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Moscow sent forces to patrol the Lachin corridor, the only road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia.

In 2022, Yerevan accused Russia of failing its peacekeeping mission when Moscow began withdrawing its troops in 2022 and allowed Azerbaijan to blockade Nagorno-Karabakh, preventing basic supplies from reaching the population.

But tensions between the South Caucasus countries have been high for a long time regarding the breakaway enclave. Nagorno-Karabakh, known to Armenians as Artsakh, is recognised internationally as part of Azerbaijan and is home to a majority ethnic Armenian population. The neighbors have gone to war twice over Nagorno-Karabakh since the break-up of the USSR—first in the early 1990s and again in 2020.

More than 7,000 troops were killed in the most-recent conflict after which Azerbaijan regained control of about one-third of the Soviet-era Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast and most of seven adjacent territories.

There has been concern about a flare-up of hostilities in recent months, after Azerbaijan mounted a blockade in December of the only route into the enclave from Armenia, known as the Lachin Corridor, sparking fears of a humanitarian crisis. This complicated peace talks between Baku and Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, in which the security of ethnic Karabakh Armenians is the greatest sticking point.

Karabakh’s human-rights ombudsman Artak Beglaryan, an ex-ombudsman of Nagorno-Karabakh, posted on X (formerly known as Twitter) that Baku had started “the bloody phase of the genocide of the Artsakh people after a long phase of starvation.”

“Are these your guarantees of rights and security, Russia, US, EU!!!” Beglaryan added.

Yerevan and Baku both have close ties to Russia, with Armenia a member of the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Azerbaijan was a former member, and had been recently testing its strength on the battlefield as well as at the negotiating table, according to the ICG.

Behind Russia, U.S. has the biggest Armenian diaspora. Russians expressed their concern at joint military exercises between U.S. and Armenia known as “Eagle Partner 2023”, suggesting that Yerevan was looking to pivot away from Moscow’s influence.

Turkish involvement

After clashes erupted both countries declared martial law. The president of Azerbaijan declared a partial military mobilization in the country as part of a presidential decree on Monday morning. Armenia had begun a general mobilization on Sunday.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashiniyan stated that Azerbaijan “declared war” against the Armenian people and stated that Armenia and Azerbaijan are “on the brink of a great war”. Pashiniyan also pointed out to Turkey’s “aggressive” attitude.

The Turkish state clearly took an ‘anti-Armenian’ position with its officials and all media. There is also information that Ankara has sent hundreds of mercenaries to Azerbaijan in recent weeks.

Turkey blamed Yerevan for the flare-up and promised Baku its “full support”. “The Turkish people will support our Azerbaijani brothers with all our means as always,” wrote the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Karabakh’s President Harutyunyan said Turkey was providing mercenaries and warplanes to the fight, suggesting, “the war has already … [gone] beyond the limits of a Karabakh-Azerbaijan conflict”.

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