Azeris and Ethnic Armenians Engage in New Clashes before Geneva Talks

On Thursday, Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces engaged in combats in and around the Nagorno-Karabakh region before the United States, France, and Russia were about to meet in Geneva to try to fend off a wider war in the South Caucasus.

Claims by Both Sides

Azerbaijan stated that the city of Ganja had been shelled early on Thursday by Armenian forces and that one civilian had been killed in the Goranboy region. It also stated that other villages were fired on by ethnic Armenian forces.

Azeri authorities have registered a loss of 30 civilian lives since the clashes instigated on September 27 over Nagorno-Karabakh. It is a mountain enclave which according to international law belongs to Azerbaijan; however, is populated and governed by ethnic Armenians.

Azerbaijan also claims 143 civilians have been wounded but has not provided information about its military casualties.

Authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh stated that the tactical situation had not transformed substantially overnight, with artillery and rocket fire recorded in few areas and the main administrative center, Stepanakert, hit by shelling.

Turkey could be Sucked into This

Nagorno-Karabakh, which got freed from Azerbaijan’s’ control as the Soviet Union collapsed, stated on Wednesday that its military death toll since September 27 was 320. It also claims 19 civilians have lost their lives and many people have been wounded.

France, the United States, and Russia are co-chairs of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s (OSCE) Minsk Group that interceded over Nagorno-Karabakh. They hope to persuade the belligerent sides to get to a ceasefire after the most lethal fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh in over 25 years.

Armenia is not sending its foreign minister to the talks in Geneva; however, Azerbaijan’s foreign minister is expected to attend the talks.

French, the U.S., and Russian representatives are anticipated to meet the Armenian foreign minister in Moscow coming Monday.

The fighting has led to international concern that Turkey, a close ally of Azerbaijan, and Russia, which also has a defense pact with Armenia, could be dragged into the conflict.

The conflict is being monitored closely abroad partly due to Nagorno-Karabakh’s proximity to pipelines that carry Azeri oil and gas to international markets.