Armenians, Azeris accuse each other of striking civilian areas
Armenia and Azerbaijan accused each other on Monday of attacking civilian areas on a ninth day of fighting, the deadliest in the South Caucasus region for more than 25 years.
Hundreds of people have been killed in the latest outbreak of war over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountain enclave that belongs to Azerbaijan under international law but is populated and governed by ethnic Armenians.
The fighting intensified over the weekend, and prospects for a ceasefire appeared remote after an uncompromising speech from Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev on Sunday.
In a televised address to the nation, Aliyev said Azeri forces were advancing and retaking lands that they lost to ethnic Armenians in the 1990s – though Armenia disputes these gains.
He demanded that Armenia set a timetable for withdrawing from Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding Azeri territories, and said Azerbaijan would not cease military action until that happened.
“Azerbaijan has one condition, and that is the liberation of its territories,” he said. “Nagorno-Karabakh is the territory of Azerbaijan.”
Speaking immediately afterwards, Armenian Defence Ministry official Artsrun Hovhannisyan said: “I don’t think that there is any risk for Yerevan (the Armenian capital), but anyway we are in war.”
The fighting has raised international concern about stability in the South Caucasus, where pipelines carry Azeri oil and gas to world markets, and about the possibility other regional powers could be dragged in — Azerbaijan is supported by Turkey, and Armenia has a defence pact with Russia.