- Baku says it is launching an operation against “terrorists” in Karabakh
- He says the aim is to restore “constitutional order”
- Shelling heard from Karabakh capital – social media
- Armenia claims that the situation on its own border is stable
LONDON, Sept 19 (Reuters) – Azerbaijan launched “anti-terrorist operations” in the Nagorno-Karabakh region to restore constitutional order and drive out what it called Armenian military formations there, a move that could herald a new war in the region.
Loud shelling could be heard from unverified social media footage taken on Tuesday in Stepanakert, the capital of Karabakh, which Azerbaijan calls Khankendi.
Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense spoke in a statement of its intention to “disarm and ensure the withdrawal of Armenian armed forces formations from our territories and (and) neutralize their military infrastructure.”
It said it was targeting only legitimate military targets with “high-precision weapons” and not civilians as part of what it called an effort to “restore the constitutional order of the Republic of Azerbaijan.”
Civilians were free to leave so-called humanitarian corridors, it added, including one to Armenia.
Armenia, which says its armed forces are not present in Karabakh, said in a statement through its defense ministry that the situation on its own border with Azerbaijan was stable.
Internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, Karabakh has a predominantly ethnic Armenian population and broke from Baku’s control in the early 1990s after the war.
Azerbaijan retook territory in and around it in the 2020 war, but ethnic Armenian authorities, who consider the area their homeland, remained in control of parts of Karabakh, including its capital.
A ceasefire agreement brokered by Russia and enforced by Russian peacekeepers has remained fragile ever since, albeit with frequent shelling and mutual recriminations.
Armenia has accused Moscow, which is embroiled in its own war in Ukraine, of being too distracted to guarantee its security.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said it was in contact with Azerbaijan and would make a statement soon.
Ruben Vardanyan, the billionaire banker who until February was the top official of the Karabakh ethnic Armenian administration, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter:
“Azerbaijan has launched a massive artillery attack against Nagorno-Karabakh, targeting cities and civilians on a large scale.”
Reuters could not immediately verify either side’s claims.
Baku said it had notified Russian peacekeepers, along with a Turkish-Russian monitoring center to help ensure compliance with the 2020 ceasefire.
Baku announced its operation after complaining that six of its citizens had been killed by landmines in two separate incidents, something it attributed to “illegal Armenian armed groups”.
The escalation came a day after much-needed food and medicine were simultaneously delivered to Karabakh via two roads, which looked like it could help ease rising tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Until the last few days, Baku imposed extensive restrictions on the Lachin Corridor – the only road connecting Armenia with Karabakh – and did not allow aid on the grounds that the route was allegedly used for arms smuggling.
Armenia said Baku’s actions, which it said had caused a humanitarian disaster, which Azerbaijan denied, were illegal.
Armenia’s foreign ministry said on Monday that Azerbaijan’s diplomatic stance appeared to be setting the stage for some kind of military action.
Reporting by Reuters Writing by Andrew Osborn Editing by Guy Faulconbridge
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