Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: Macron Slams Turkey’s “Warlike” Rhetoric as Heavy Fighting Continues

Written by | Monday, October 5th, 2020

Fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh has escalated dramatically on Sunday (4 October) after Baku accused Armenian forces of firing rockets at Ganja, Azerbaijan’s second largest city, which lies outside the contested territory. Armenia, meanwhile, said that Karabakh’s capital, Stepanakert, itself, which has been under shelling since Friday, was hit again on Sunday. There were reports of dead and wounded civilians in both the capital and the historic town of Susha, with Armenia accusing Azerbaijani forces of “the deliberate targeting of the civilian population”.
The fighting brings the two former Soviet republics a step closer to outright war after eight days of clashes, and threatens to draw the regional powers Turkey, Russia and Iran into a battle for influence in the sensitive south Caucasus. The heavy fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan has also prompted alarm in Europe. Last Thursday (1 October), France’s Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin called for an immediate ceasefire between ethnic Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan. Macron also said Turkey’s “warlike” rhetoric was encouraging Azerbaijan to reconquer Nagorno-Karabakh and that was unacceptable, though he added that he had no proof at this stage of direct Turkish involvement. “I have noted Turkey’s political declarations (in favour of Azerbaijan), which I think are inconsiderate and dangerous,” Macron said.
While the conflict has centuries-old roots, a bitter war between both sides over Nagorno-Karabakh was triggered by the collapse of the Soviet Union. A ceasefire in 1994 left Armenia in full control of the area and surrounding enclaves, which are internationally recognised as Azerbajiani territory. The region has long attracted western concern because it is a major oil and gas pipeline corridor to world markets. Tensions between the two neighbours over the last 30 years have traditionally been mediated by Russia, which has a military alliance with Armenia but also maintains close links with Baku’s ruling elite and sells arms to both sides. Turkey, which has strong cultural and economic ties to Azerbaijan, is widely viewed to have stoked the fresh hostilities by declaring its staunch support for Azerbaijan when the fighting broke out last week.

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