With dozens killed in latest round of clashes, Armenia, Azerbaijan trade accusations
The leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia brushed off the suggestion of peace talks on Tuesday, accusing each other of obstructing negotiations over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, with dozens killed and injured in three days of heavy fighting.
Azerbaijani President Ilkham Aliyev told Russian state TV channel Rossiya 1 that his country is committed to negotiating a resolution, but that Armenia is obstructing the process.
"The Armenian prime minister publicly declares that Karabakh is (part of) Armenia, period. In this case, what kind of negotiating process can we talk about?" Aliyev said.
He said that according to principles brokered by the Minsk group, which was set up in 1992 by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to resolve the conflict, "territories around the former Nagorno-Karabakh autonomous region should be transferred to Azerbaijan".
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, in turn, told a local broadcaster that "it is very hard to talk about negotiations… when specific military operations are underway". He said there is no military solution to the conflict and called for a compromise.
Heightening the tensions is a claim by the Armenian Defense Ministry that a Turkish F-16 fighter, from inside Azerbaijani territory, shot down an Armenian Sukhoi Su-25 fighter-bomber.
The Turkish plane, while staying inside Azerbaijani airspace, was providing support for Azerbaijan's forces on the ground delivering strikes against the Armenian city of Vardenis, the ministry said on Tuesday.
Pashinyan said the military operation was planned beforehand, and "there are no doubts that this operation was plotted during joint drill with the Turkish armed forces".
Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin denies a Turkish fighter destroyed an Armenian aircraft. Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry dismissed the claim as a lie.
Aliyev said the Turkish Air Force's F-16 fighters are not taking part in the Nagorno-Karabakh hostilities.
"We do not have this information. I was recently informed that such a piece of news emerged out there. It is not proven by anything," Aliyev said.
Both sides on Tuesday claimed their rivals had fired directly into each other's territory.
Both reported firing from the other side across their shared border, well to the west of the Nagorno-Karabakh region over which the fierce fighting broke out between Azerbaijani and ethnic Armenian forces on Sunday.
The conflict has reignited concerns about stability in the South Caucasus region, a corridor for pipelines carrying oil and gas to world markets.
Call for immediate halt
The international community is calling for talks this week to end the decades-old conflict between the forces. The United Nations Security Council on Tuesday night called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to immediately halt the fighting and urgently resume talks without preconditions.
The UN's most powerful body strongly condemned the use of force and backed Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' earlier call to stop the fighting, de-escalate tensions, and resume talks "without delay".
Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed concerns over the conflict in the Nagorno-Karabakh region during a phone call with Pashinyan, the Kremlin said on Tuesday in a statement.
Since the outbreak of the conflict, about 2,300 Armenian soldiers have been killed and wounded, a statement released on Wednesday morning by the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry indicated. The ministry noted that about 130 Armenian tanks and other armored vehicles were destroyed.
The Armenians claim 790 Azerbaijani servicemen have been killed and as many as 1,900 soldiers injured in the clashes.
Artsrun Hovhannisyan, of the country's Defense Ministry, told a news conference on Tuesday night that the Armenian army had destroyed 137 Azerbaijani tanks and armored vehicles, 72 drones, seven helicopters and another aircraft.