New fighting broke out over the weekend between Armenia and Azerbaijan, killing at least 30 people, according to Reuters.
The two former Soviet nations have reignited a years-old border dispute which is seeing its most violent battle since the 1990’s, Reuters says. The conflict is over a region known as Nagorno-Karabakh, which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but is run autonomously by ethnic Armenians.
The mountainous border region hasn’t been under Azeri control since 1991 despite being recognized as part of the country, according to Reuters. There was a full-fledged war in the territory from the late-1980s until a 1994 ceasefire. This episode of the dispute has so far been the bloodiest since that ceasefire. (RELATED: Lawyer For Opposition Leader Kolesnikova Reportedly Detained In Belarus Amid Contested Election, Mass Protests)
Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh have both declared martial law and are beginning to mobilize their male populations for potentially escalating conflict, says Reuters. Azerbaijan also reportedly declared martial law as the attacks wore on.
Both sides blame each other for the new clashes, with Armenia and Azerbaijan each accusing the other of starting the attacks, Reuters reports. There have been numerous civilian casualties on both sides, prompting international concerns over escalation. President Donald Trump said Sunday that the U.S. will “seek to stop the violence”.
Other international leaders have weighed in, including a call for deescalation from Russia, according to a Kremlin spokesperson. China has also called for restraint, Reuters reports. Meanwhile, Turkish dictator Tayyip Erdogan has thrown his country’s full support behind the Azeris, saying that Armenia is “the biggest threat to peace in the region”, according to Reuters. Like Turkey, Azerbaijan is a majority-Muslim country, while Armenia is majority-Christian, Reuters points out.
Turkey deploying Syrian fighters to help ally Azerbaijan, two fighters say https://t.co/J3oJzrQbkv pic.twitter.com/g2dMYxGFs7
— Reuters (@Reuters) September 28, 2020
Despite the relatively limited economic and military power of the two countries central to the conflict, the fighting is drawing increased international concern due to potential effects on energy in the region. Azerbaijan is one of the world’s largest exporters of oil and natural gas, and has several pipelines flowing out to supply Europe and Asia, according to CNBC. For now, energy markets don’t appear to be affected by the developments, but that could change if the conflict gets more serious, one expert told CNBC.
With Turkey on the side of Azerbaijan and Russia having close relations with both countries, there are growing fears this could become yet another proxy conflict between world powers. Turkey has been accused of sending rebel fighters from Syria to support the Azeris, which both Turkey and Azerbaijan both deny thus far, according to one report. Turkey is already supporting Syrian rebels in a proxy battle with Russia and Iran, who back Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad.