Flare-up continues between Armenia, Azerbaijan over disputed region

Forces clash again on Monday, at least 21 reported killed

Fighting in the biggest flare-up in years between Armenia and neighbouring Azerbaijan continued on Monday, with shelling reported in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. According to media, Armenian and Azeri forces exchanged fierce fire, with the sides accusing each other of using heavy artillery and reports of at least 21 deaths and hundreds of people being wounded.

The clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the heaviest since 2016, have rekindled concern over stability in the South Caucasus region, a corridor for pipelines carrying oil and gas to world markets. The region, internationally recognised as part of predominantly Muslim Azerbaijan, has been controlled by Christian Armenian separatists for decades, with a fragile peace treaty in place since the 1990s.

Azerbaijan's military said on Monday that it had "liberated" several strategically important areas in the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh region.

"Several advantageous high grounds around the village of Talysh were cleared of the occupying forces, and the enemy suffered heavy losses," Azerbaijan's Defence Ministry said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Azerbaijan’s president declared a partial military mobilisation, and his foreign minister said six Azeri civilians had been killed and 19 injured since the fighting began.

Interfax news agency quoted an Armenian defence ministry representative as saying 200 Armenians had been wounded.

Both sides have traded blame for the escalation.

It is the bloodiest fighting in years between the former Soviet republics, which fought a war over the disputed region in the late 1980s and early 1990s as they transitioned into independent countries amid the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Impoverished Armenia has closely relied on backing by Russia, whose government largely adheres to Christianity. Oil-rich Azerbaijan is supported by predominantly Muslim Turkey, with close ties between their ethnic Turkic populations.

Russia called for an immediate ceasefire and another regional power, Turkey, said it would support Azerbaijan, its traditional ally. Armenia’s ambassador to Russia said on Monday Turkey had sent around 4,000 fighters from northern Syria to Azerbaijan, Interfax news agency reported, an accusation denied by Baku.

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