Ukrainian Military Reports Heavy Fighting Along Front Line In Eastern Ukraine
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has called on Armenia to "refrain from new provocations" several days after Yerevan and Baku traded accusations over an escalation of violence in Nagorno-Karabakh that left at least three people dead. Speaking at a gathering of Turkish diplomats in Ankara on August 8, Cavusoglu reiterated his country's vision of peace in the South Caucasus region. "Since the end of the war, Turkey continues to make efforts to ensure peace in the region," Cavusoglu said, alluding to the deadly six-week war between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas that ended with a Moscow-brokered cease-fire in November 2020.
Backed by Turkey, an archfoe of Armenia, Azerbaijan gained control of swathes of territory that had been controlled by ethnic Armenians since the former Soviet republics fought a war over Nagorno-Karabakh in the 1990s. "Now we are talking not about Azerbaijan's occupied territories, displaced people, refugees, and a conflict that can start again at any moment, but about regional peace and cooperation," Cavusoglu said. "We again call on Armenia to refrain from participating in new provocations [against Azerbaijan in Karabakh]." On August 3, ethnic Armenian authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh said that two Armenian soldiers were killed and nearly two dozen others wounded in what they described as an attack by Azerbaijani forces against their military positions along the Lachin corridor conducted with the use of drones, mortars, and grenade launchers.
The Lachin corridor connects Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh and is currently controlled by Russian peacekeepers under the terms of the 2020 cease-fire. Baku, for its part, said the operation was in retaliation for the killing of one Azerbaijani soldier by ethnic Armenian forces in the area on August 1. Azerbaijan also claimed to have captured some strategic heights in the mountainous region overlooking the Lachin corridor.
Nagorno-Karabakh's ethnic Armenian leader Arayik Harutiunian ordered a "partial mobilization" of army reservists in the wake of the incidents. However, the situation did not further escalate amid reported agreements that ethnic Armenians would be leaving several villages along the Lachin corridor that are to be handed over to Azerbaijan as part of the cease-fire agreement. Despite what appears to be a deescalation of conflict in keeping with calls by Russia, the United States, and the European Union, the situation in and around Nagorno-Karabakh remains relatively tense as Armenians and Azerbaijanis continue to accuse each other of regular cease-fire violations.
Armenia said one of its soldiers was wounded along the border with Azerbaijan on August 6, a claim denied by Azerbaijan but confirmed by the Russian Defense Ministry in its latest news bulletin on the Nagorno-Karabakh peacekeeping operation. Turkey, which is Azerbaijan's top military and political ally and has no diplomatic relations with Armenia, has been engaged in a normalization process with Yerevan since late last year. Ankara, however, has made it clear that establishing diplomatic relations and opening borders with Armenia depends on Yerevan's acceptance of Baku's key demands.
Commenting on the prospect of normalizing Turkish-Armenian relations in July, Cavusoglu said that Yerevan should specifically negotiate a peace accord sought by Baku and open a land corridor to Azerbaijan's Nakhichevan exclave. Azerbaijan and Armenia have been locked in a conflict over Azerbaijan's breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh for years. Nagorno-Karabakh, which had been populated mainly by ethnic Armenians, declared independence from Azerbaijan amid a 1988-94 war that claimed an estimated 30,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.
Internationally mediated negotiations with the involvement of the OSCE's so-called Minsk Group -- co-chaired by France, Russia, and the United States -- failed to result in a resolution before war broke out again in September 2020.
In the aftermath of the war that killed more than 6,500 people, Armenia agreed to hand over three districts ringing Nagorno-Karabakh that had been under Armenian control since the 1990s, including the Lachin corridor, and Russia deployed some 2,000 peacekeepers to oversee the truce.