In an effort to restore constitutional order and remove what they claim to be Armenian military formations, Azerbaijan has launched “anti-terrorist activities” in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. This move may signal the start of a new war in the area.
Unverified social media footage filmed in Karabakh’s capital, Stepanakert (known as Khankendi by Azerbaijan), on Tuesday captured the sound of loud shelling. Azerbaijan’s defence ministry released a statement stating that they intend to “disarm and secure the withdrawal of formations of Armenia’s armed forces from our territories, (and) neutralise their military infrastructure.”
They claim that they are only targeting legitimate military targets with “high-precision weapons” and not civilians as part of their drive to “restore the constitutional order of the Republic of Azerbaijan.” Azerbaijan has also created humanitarian corridors for civilians to leave, including one to Armenia. Armenia denies having any armed forces in Karabakh and reports that the situation on their own border with Azerbaijan is stable.
Karabakh is recognized internationally as part of Azerbaijan but has an overwhelmingly ethnic Armenian population. It broke away from Baku’s control in the early 1990s after a war, and Azerbaijan recaptured some territories in and around it in a 2020 war. Ethnic Armenian authorities still control part of Karabakh, including its capital, which they view as their ancestral homeland.
A ceasefire deal brokered by Russia and enforced by Russian peacekeepers has been fragile since it was established, with frequent shelling and mutual accusations. Armenia has accused Moscow of being too preoccupied with its own war in Ukraine to ensure its security. Russia’s foreign ministry is in contact with Azerbaijan and will make a statement soon. Baku informed Russia’s peacekeeping force and a Turkish-Russian monitoring centre, which is meant to help ensure the 2020 ceasefire, about its operation.
Azerbaijan declared the operation after six of its citizens were killed in two separate incidents by landmines, which they blame on “illegal Armenian armed groups.” The escalation occurred a day after food and medicine were delivered to Karabakh along two roads simultaneously, a move that appeared to ease the mounting tension between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Baku had previously imposed sweeping restrictions on the Lachin corridor, the only road connecting Armenia with Karabakh, and had not allowed aid to enter, claiming that the route was being used for arms smuggling. Armenia claimed that Baku’s actions, which they said had caused a humanitarian catastrophe, were illegal.
On Monday, Armenia’s foreign ministry claimed that Azerbaijan’s diplomatic stance indicated that they were preparing for some form of military action.