Armenian Jet Allegedly Shot Down By Turkey As Conflict Escalates In The Caucasus

(Photo by ADEM ALTAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Dylan Housman Deputy News Editor
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Armenia is claiming that one of its fighter jets was shot down by a Turkish F-16 in Armenian airspace, according to the BBC. 

The Armenian Foreign Ministry says that a Soviet-era SU-25 jet was destroyed and the pilot inside was killed, per the BBC report. Turkey has denied the claim. 

The Turkish jet was nearly 40 miles into Armenian airspace, alleges Shushan Stepanyan, spokeswoman for the Armenian Defense Ministry. An aid to Turkish President Erdogan responded with a denial, stating that “Armenia should withdraw from the territories under its occupation instead of resorting to cheap propaganda tricks.”

If true, this would represent a substantial escalation of the fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan that has already claimed nearly 100 lives in just three days, per the BBC. Turkey has publicly backed Azerbaijan from the start, and allegedly started sending Syrian rebels to Azerbaijan in recent days. 

Azerbaijan does not have F-16 fighter jets in its air force, but Turkey does, the BBC reports. While Turkey is giving full-throated support to the Azeris, Armenia’s ally Russia has called for an immediate ceasefire in public statements. Russia has a military base in Armenia, and if Armenia is found to have been attacked, it would potentially trigger the CSTO defense pact between Russia, Armenia, and 4 other neighboring countries. (RELATED: Vladimir Putin Suggests Russia, US Stop Meddling In Each Other’s Elections)

The conflict is centered around a dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but is autonomously controlled by ethnic Armenians. It is still unclear which side started the latest round of fighting, which is already the bloodiest since a full-blown war was fought in the region in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. 

Despite calls from Russia and President Donald Trump for a peaceful resolution, Turkey has not taken the same approach. Their increased involvement could elevate the conflict, as Turkey is a NATO ally of the United States and Europe.