Armenia and Azerbaijan Clash Again as Foreign Peace Efforts Intensify
Mourners attend the funeral of Azerbaijani Armed Forces serviceman Sabuhi Ahmadov, who was killed in recent border clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenia, in Baku, Azerbaijan September 14, 2022. REUTERS/Aziz Karimov
TBILISI (Reuters) - New clashes erupted between Azerbaijan and Armenia on Wednesday as international peace efforts intensified a day after the ex-Soviet republics witnessed their deadliest violence since 2020.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan told parliament that his small, landlocked country had appealed to the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization to help it restore its territorial integrity after Azerbaijani attacks.
"If we say that Azerbaijan has carried out aggression against Armenia, it means that they have managed to establish control over some territories," Pashinyan said, according to TASS news agency.
Pashinyan said 105 Armenian service personnel had been killed since the attacks began, and that the spa town of Jermuk, known across the former Soviet Union for its hot springs, had been shelled.
The violence that erupted on Tuesday along Armenia's border with Azerbaijan, which Baku blamed on Yerevan, prompted an appeal for calm from Russian President Vladimir Putin and international calls for restraint.
Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Paruyr Hovhannisyan told Reuters the clashes could escalate into a war - a second major armed conflict in the former Soviet Union while Russia's military is focused on the invasion of Ukraine.
A full-fledged conflict would risk dragging in Russia and Turkey, and destabilise an important corridor for pipelines carrying oil and gas just as war in Ukraine disrupts energy supplies.
Azerbaijan accused Armenia, which is in a military alliance with Moscow and home to a Russian military base, of shelling its army units.
Baku reported 50 military deaths on the first day of fighting and said on Wednesday that two civilians had also been injured.
"Our units are taking the necessary response measures," Azerbaijan's defence ministry said.
Armenia's defence ministry, which has denied shelling Azerbaijani positions, said Wednesday's fighting had largely subsided by midday (0800 GMT).
Reuters was unable immediately to verify battlefield accounts from either side.
The flare-up has triggered international concern, with Russia, the United States, France and the European Union stepping up diplomatic efforts.
Baku said Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov had met U.S. State Department Caucasus adviser Philip Reeker, telling him Armenia must completely withdraw from the territory of Azerbaijan.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday said Russia could either "stir the pot" or use its influence to help "calm the waters."
He held separate calls with Armenia's Pashinyan and Azerbaijaini President Ilham Aliyev to urge a ceasefire, and in particular expressed concern about shelling deep in Armenia.
French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, in a call with her counterparts from both countries, also called for the "end of strikes against Armenian territory."
EU Special Representative Toivo Klaar was due in the south Caucasus on Wednesday to facilitate dialogue. The CSTO also dispatched a delegation to assess the situation on the border.
Pashinyan pulled out of a CSTO summit in Uzbekistan on Thursday and Friday that he had been due to attend, the Sputnik news agency cited the government media office as saying.
In other strife involving ex-Soviet republics, Kyrgyz and Tajik border guards exchanged fire in Central Asia on Wednesday in a dispute over the course of their frontier, officials on both sides said.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have been fighting for decades over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous enclave that is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but was until 2020 entirely populated and controlled by ethnic Armenians, with backing from Yerevan.
Azerbaijan made significant territorial gains in and around Nagorno-Karabakh in a six-week war that year.
Since then, skirmishes have erupted periodically despite a Russian-brokered ceasefire and tentative steps on both sides to reach a more comprehensive peace settlement.