A new round of violence has erupted between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, with both sides accusing the other of violating a ceasefire in place since 1994.
In a statement released on April 2, the Armenian Ministry of Defense reported that Azerbaijan had undertaken offensive actions "along the line of contact between Karabakh and Azerbaijani forces during the night of April 1-2." Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman has put the blame on Armenian forces, saying that Azeri positions were subjected to shelling from mortars and other large-caliber weapons.
Azeri forces reportedly advanced past the contact line with Armenian troops, using tanks, artillery, and aircraft. Armenia’s Ministry of Defense has claimed that this attack was repelled, adding that the Azeri military “retreated with a large number of casualties in the contact line.”
The Azeri Ministry of Defense has confirmed that at least 12 Azeri troops were killed in the fighting. After initially denying that a helicopter had been lost, the Azeri Ministry of Defense confirmed that a Mi-24 had been downed. Additionally, an Azeri tank was destroyed after hitting a mine.
Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense alleged that six Armenian tanks have been destroyed and over 100 Armenian troops wounded or killed, but these claims could not be independently verified. In a statement, the President of Armenia confirmed the deaths of 18 soldiers, with 35 more wounded in the fighting. Armenian ministers have convened an emergency meeting over the situation.
Both sides have mobilized their forces. Video released by Russian media reportedly shows an Armenian armor convoy heading towards the contact line.
The fighting has sparked calls from the international community for a de-escalation, particularly from Moscow, an important broker in the conflict. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has held phone calls with both his Armenian and Azeri counterparts regarding the need to stabilize the situation. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov both urged for an end to the violence.
European Union High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini called the reports of the situation “deeply worrying.” Mogherini called on both sides to “stop the fighting immediately and observe the cease-fire.” She added that both Azerbaijan and Armenia “must show restraint and avoid any further actions or statements that could result in escalation.”
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group released a statement condemning the use of force. The Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group “call upon the sides to stop shooting and take all necessary measures to stabilize the situation on the ground.”
Earlier this week, Azeri President Ilham Aliyev traveled to the United States for discussions with American officials over a range of issues, including Nagorno-Karabakh. The United States Department of State noted that Secretary of State John Kerry “emphasized [American] commitment to working with the sides to reach a comprehensive settlement based on the principles of international law, the UN Charter, and the Helsinki Final Act.”
Azerbaijan and Armenia agreed to a ceasefire in 1994. Despite diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict, their dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh has not been resolved. The two sides have frequently engaged in skirmishes along the contact line, trading accusations over ceasefire violations.