By Mark Dovich
19 Sep, 2023
Baku has indicated it will continue military operations in Nagorno-Karabakh unless Stepanakert surrenders, after launching strikes across the region Tuesday afternoon that left at least 25 people dead.
Stepanakert “must raise the white flag, all weapons must be handed over, and (the Nagorno-Karabakh government) must be dissolved,” President Ilham Aliyev’s office said Tuesday evening, adding: “Otherwise, the antiterror measures will be continued until the end.”
At least 25 people had been killed and more than 138 injured in the hostilities, according to the latest updates from Nagorno-Karabakh’s Human Rights Defender’s Office. Those figures include both military and civilian casualties.
Civilian infrastructure, including residential buildings, has reportedly been damaged. Six villages near the frontlines have already been evacuated.
Azerbaijani forces began shelling locations across Nagorno-Karabakh around 1 PM local time Tuesday as part of what they called “anti-terrorist activities,” prompting many of the region’s roughly 120,000 Armenians to seek shelter in nearby cellars and basements.
As of 7:25 PM local time, “fighting continued along the entire line of contact,” the Artsakh Defense Army said in a statement. Earlier, the army had reported that “the intensity of fire along the line of contact had decreased significantly.” It was not immediately clear when fighting had restarted.
Meanwhile, protests broke out in downtown Yerevan Tuesday evening in front of Armenian government buildings, the Russian embassy, and the prime minister’s residence, with hundreds of demonstrators demanding that Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan resign and that Russia respond to Azerbaijan’s attack.
Protesters reportedly clashed with police officers posted to government buildings and blocked the entrances and exits to the Russian embassy. CivilNet’s team on the ground reported law enforcement used stun grenades on the protesters in at least one case.
For his part, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said Tuesday Armenia will continue to press Azerbaijan to “ensure the rights and security of Nagorno-Karabakh’s people,” but insisted Yerevan will not intervene militarily, saying, “Attempts to engage Armenia in this military escalation are unacceptable.”
In response to the bloodshed, President Emmanuel Macron said France plans to request the powerful United Nations Security Council to hold another round of emergency talks.
Two previous emergency sessions, one last December and one in August, ended with the council failing to adopt a joint statement or binding resolution, reportedly amid diplomatic infighting between member countries.
The European Union, France, and Germany all called on Azerbaijan to refrain from taking any further military action in the region. Russia called on the “conflicting sides” to cease hostilities immediately, but did not single out Azerbaijan.
The European Union and United States together support one track of Armenia-Azerbaijan negotiations, while Russia coordinates a separate track. Neither has made any discernible progress toward a peace deal.
Azerbaijan’s attack comes after Nagorno-Karabakh endured more than nine months of near-total isolation from the outside world. Azerbaijan’s blockade has pushed Nagorno-Karabakh’s roughly 120,000 Armenians to the brink of famine and prompted warnings of genocide from the former chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court.
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