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Armenia says 49 soldiers killed in clashes with Azerbaijan

Decades-old hostilities over control of the Nagorno-Karabakh region are the root of the new battles.
Soldiers walk in a trench at a border check point between Armenia and Azerbaijan near the village of Sotk, Armenia, on June 18, 2021.
Soldiers walk in a trench at a border checkpoint between Armenia and Azerbaijan near the village of Sotk, Armenia, last year. Karen Minaysan / AFP via Getty Images file
/ Source: Reuters

Armenia said on Tuesday that at least 49 of its soldiers had been killed in clashes along the border with Azerbaijan after a sharp escalation in hostilities that prompted big powers to call for restraint.

Armenia said that several towns near the border with Azerbaijan, including Jermuk, Goris and Kapan, were being shelled in the early hours of Tuesday, and said it had responded to what it called a “large-scale provocation” by Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan said it was attacked by Armenia.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan accused Azerbaijan of attacking Armenian towns because it did not want to negotiate over the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave that is inside Azerbaijan but mainly populated by ethnic Armenians.

“The intensity of hostilities has decreased, but attacks on one or two fronts from Azerbaijan continue,” Pashinyan said in a speech to Parliament, according to Russian media.

The latest escalation of decades-old hostilities between the two south Caucasus countries has fueled fears that a second full-fledged war could break out in the post-Soviet world in addition to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Azerbaijan, which accused Armenia of carrying out intelligence activity along the border and moving weapons, said its military positions came under attack by Armenia. Azerbaijani media reported that a ceasefire agreement had been broken almost immediately after being enforced early on Tuesday.

“As we have long made clear, there can be no military solution to the conflict,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. “We urge an end to any military hostilities immediately.”

Russia, which operates a military base in Armenia, is a key power broker in the region and an Armenian ally through the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization, while Turkey backs Azerbaijan.

The defense ministers of Armenia and Russia spoke on Tuesday morning and agreed to take steps to stabilize the situation on the border, while Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu held a call with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Jeyhun Bayramov, and called for Armenia to “cease its provocations.”

Charles Michel, president of the European Council, also urged Pashinyan to prevent further escalation.

Russia sent thousands of peacekeepers to the region in 2020 as part of a deal to end six weeks of hostilities between the sides that saw Azerbaijan make significant territorial gains in and around Nagorno-Karabakh.