Border clashes erupted again early on Thursday (16 July) between arch-foes Azerbaijan and Armenia after a brief pause the previous day, officials in both countries said, amid a flare-up over a decades-long territorial dispute.
At least 16 people on both sides have been killed since border clashes erupted on Sunday between the ex-Soviet republics, which have been locked for decades in a conflict over Azerbaijan’s region of Nagorno Karabakh, occupied by Armenia.
The territory was seized by ethnic Armenian separatists in a 1990s war that claimed 30,000 lives, though the recent fighting broke out on a northern section of their shared border, far from Karabakh.
The defence ministry in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku said in a statement that clashes were ongoing in the north after “Armenians shelled Azerbaijani villages with large-calibre weapons.”
Armenia’s defence ministry spokeswoman Sushan Stepanyan said that Azerbaijani forces were “shelling Armenian villages with mortars and howitzers”.
“The fire still continues,” she wrote on Facebook on Thursday.
The renewed violence erupted after both sides observed a pause in fighting on Wednesday.
The clashes that broke out last week have raised fears of a major flare-up in the strategic Caucasus region and prompted calls for immediate de-escalation from the United States, the European Union and regional power broker Russia.
Internationally mediated peace talks between the two Caucasus nations have so far failed to bring about a solution to their territorial dispute.
Azerbaijan says that Armenia is playing a dangerous game. Unlike the “usual” clashes, this time the incidents are taking place at the state border between the two countries, rather than at the border with the occupied territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.
This detail is important because, at least in theory, Armenia could invoke Russia’s help under the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) of which it is a member. Azerbaijan is not a party to the CSTO.