Tensions rise along Armenian-Azerbaijani border
Armenian troops violating cease-fire since Sunday after attacking Azerbaijan's northwestern Tovuz border area with artillery fire
Tensions continue to rise at the Armenian-Azerbaijani border amid serious cease-fire violations by Armenian troops after they attacked a northwestern border area with artillery fire.
The Armenian army attempted to attack Azerbaijani positions by firing artillery towards the Tovuz border district, but withdrew after suffering losses following retaliation from the Azerbaijani army.
The armed forces of Azerbaijan retaliated and launched counteroffensive measures, preventing the Armenian armed forces from moving forward.
Three Azerbaijani soldiers were martyred, and four others injured in the border clash.
"The attack by Armenia, with the use of artillery, against the positions of the armed forces of Azerbaijan, along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, constitutes aggression, an act of use of force, and another provocation," said Hikmet Hajiyev, assistant to the president and foreign policy chief for Azerbaijan's Presidency.
Armenia has launched the offensive and provocation at the time when the globe is fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan said in a statement that the entire responsibility of such provocative actions belonged to Armenia.
Turkey's Foreign Ministry issued a statement which strongly condemned the attack a day earlier.
"Turkey, with all its facilities, will continue to stand with Azerbaijan in its fight to protect its territorial integrity."
Later in the day, an Azerbaijani army officer was martyred in a border clash with Armenian troops.
Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry said situation at the border was under control but the Armenian side was hiding its losses.
Despite international calls for restraint, Armenian troops opened fire on civilian settlements at the Azerbaijani border.
They fired on the villages of Agdam and Dondar Kuscu in Tovuz in the afternoon with 120-millimeter mortars and D-30 howitzers.
"The Armenian administration should not think that its actions will go unpunished. As in all occupation situations, the occupation of Azerbaijani lands is temporary, and Armenia will account for all illegal actions," Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry said.
Meanwhile, Azerbaijani army launched counterattacks with cannon shots.
The positions of Armenian army, military radar station, vehicle depot, tanks, and armored vehicles were hit, Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry said in a statement. More than 20 personnel from the Armenian army were killed in the attack, it added.
Azerbaijani forces resorted to retaliatory fire targeting strongholds of the Armenian army, the ministry said, also sharing drone footage of the attack.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called on Armenia to "pull its head together" and said that Turkey stands with Azerbaijan "with all it has". "What Armenia did is unacceptable," Cavusoglu said.
"Whatever solution Baku prefers for the occupied lands and [Upper] Karabakh, we will stand by Azerbaijan."
Russia's Foreign Ministry also expressed "serious concern" over the sharp escalation of the situation at the Armenia-Azerbaijan border.
Moscow said further escalation is "unacceptable" as it threatens regional security, and expressed readiness to provide any assistance in easing the tension.
Speaking at a meeting with top security officials via a video link, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said they avenged the martyrdom of their soldiers in border clashes with Armenian troops.
"This ugly and insidious policy will lead Armenia to the abyss," he said.
"Armenian troops could not cross even a single centimeter into the Azerbaijani territory," Aliyev vowed.
The US also condemned the deadly clash that took place between the two bordering countries in "strongest terms."
"We urge the sides to stop using force immediately, use the existing direct communication links between them to avoid further escalation, and strictly adhere to the cease-fire," said State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus.
On Monday, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Azerbaijan and Armenia to de-escalate their deadly border spat.
"The Secretary-General urges an immediate end to the fighting and calls on all involved to take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation and refrain from provocative rhetoric," Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
Also joining the countries reacting to the border conflict was Georgia, which neighbors both Azerbaijan and Armenia.
The Georgian Presidency called for a peaceful resolution of the conflict at the Azerbaijan-Armenia border.
"Today, while we are all fighting against an invisible enemy [the COVID-19 outbreak], international solidarity and maintaining global stability are crucial," it said in a statement.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group Co-Chairs urged both sides to immediately resume talks and return OSCE monitors to the region.
OSCE Minsk Group -- co-chaired by France, Russia and the US -- was formed to find a peaceful solution to the Upper Karabakh conflict, but has yet to get any results.
On Tuesday, Pakistan condemned Armenia's provocative attack on Azerbaijan's army, saying the unresolved bilateral conflict "pose serious threat to regional peace."
"Pakistan reaffirms its principled position on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and reiterates its support to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Azerbaijan," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
"The recent provocative action is manifestation of the Armenian attempt to distract the international community and hamper the ongoing negotiation process for peaceful resolution of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as enshrined in the relevant UN Security Council resolutions," the statement added.
Later on the day, Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry announced that seven more Azerbaijani soldiers, including a major general and a colonel, were martyred in border clashes. The recent deaths rose the number of martyrs since Sunday to 11.
Karim Valiyev, deputy defense minister of Azerbaijan, said nearly 100 Armenian soldiers were killed over two days of clashes.
As a result of attacks on residential areas, a 76-year-old Azerbaijani citizen lost his life when Armenian troops opened fire in Agdam.
"Targeting Azerbaijani civilians with heavy guns is a clear proof of fascism and barbarism. This is part of the occupation policy of Armenia," the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said.
Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called on the sides to exercise restraint, adding that Russia is ready to serve as a mediator in finding a peaceful solution.
"Russia, as we have already stated at various levels, is ready to provide its mediation efforts for a settlement, as a co-chair of the Minsk group," Peskov said.
Meanwhile, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Turkey will continue to stand by the Azerbaijan Armed Forces against Armenia, which has illegally occupied Upper Karabakh.
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the Armenian attack on Tovuz.
"This attack goes beyond the diameter of Armenia. The aim is both to block the solution in Upper Karabakh and to reveal new conflict areas."
Turkey will not hesitate to stand against any kind of attacks targeting Azerbaijan, Erdogan said.
Azerbaijanis gathered early Wednesday in front of the National Assembly building in the capital, demanding that they be mobilized amid clashes with Armenian forces on the frontier.
Thousands of Azerbaijanis marched in the streets of Baku to protest the occupation of Upper Karabakh by Armenia and attacks by its forces since Sunday.
Holding Azerbaijani flags and chanting "Karabakh is ours, and will remain ours," they gathered in front of the country's parliament building, where they demanded the government to declare a mobilization as they are ready to go to the frontline and protect their motherland.
Later in the day, the Azerbaijani leader described Armenia as a "fascist state" because of its recent attack on Azerbaijan's civilian settlements where one civilian was killed.
"If we wanted to, we could control most of the land in that region of Armenia today. But we had no such purpose," Aliyev said.
There was no dead or wounded Azerbaijani soldiers on Armenia's territory, according to Vagif Dargahli, spokesman for Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry.
One more Azerbaijani soldier was martyred by Armenian troops in border clashes, the country's Defense Ministry announced.
It said Azerbaijani troops neutralized about 20 Armenian soldiers and destroyed an armored vehicle, a radio-electronic combat vehicle, battle posts, and strongholds of the enemy.
In total, as many as 12 Azerbaijani soldiers, including high-ranking officers, have been martyred, while four others injured in a border clash since Sunday.
On Thursday, the Azerbaijani Armed Forces downed Armenian tactical unmanned aerial vehicle X-55, which tried to carry out reconnaissance mission over Azerbaijani positions in Tovuz direction, said Defense Ministry.
Turkey's Foreign Ministry in a statement again slammed Armenia's attacks on Azerbaijan and the smear campaign against Turkey.
"This hypocritical attitude of Armenia, which has maintained an illegitimate occupation in the territory of Azerbaijan for many years, clearly and obviously reveals who is the main obstacle to the establishment of permanent peace and stability in the South Caucasus," it said.
The ministry said the Armenian authorities should act wisely and learn as soon as possible to be part of solutions instead of problems in the South Caucasus.
Later, Turkey’s defense chief Hulusi Akar met with the top Azerbaijani military official and delegation, saying that Armenia "will surely pay for attacks" at the Azerbaijani border area.
"[Armenia] will be drowned under the plot they have initiated and will definitely pay for what they have done," Akar told Ramiz Tahirov, deputy defense minister and the commander of the Military Air Forces of Azerbaijan.
Responding to the Armenian propaganda, Azerbaijani Community of California condemned Thursday the statements made by some US lawmakers on Sunday's border clash between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Calling Representatives Adam Schiff, Brad Sherman, Judy Chu, TJ Cox and Senator Andreas Borgeas "pro-Armenian" on Twitter, the community accused the lawmakers of "supporting invasion and ethnic cleansing of Azerbaijan by Armenia," and urged "all friends of Azerbaijan" to condemn such remarks.
The members of the Congress described the tension between the two countries as "provocation of Azerbaijan," claiming Armenia is suffering the violence.
Another firm step in support of Azerbaijan came from the Turkish legislative assembly as four major political parties in parliament on Thursday issued a joint declaration condemning Armenia's recent cross-border attacks.
"Armenia is on the wrong path [...] the attacks, which are an example of known Armenian hostility, are the biggest obstacle in front of permanent peace in the South Caucasus," it said.
"Turkey, with its all capabilities, will continue to side with Azerbaijan in its struggle to ensure its territorial integrity."
Upper Karabakh region
The two former Soviet republics have long been locked in a conflict over Upper Karabakh.
Upper Karabakh, or Nagorno-Karabakh, an internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan, has been illegally occupied since 1991 through Armenian military aggression.
Four UN Security Council and two UN General Assembly resolutions, as well as decisions by many international organizations, refer to this fact and demand the withdrawal of the occupational Armenian forces from Upper Karabakh and seven other occupied regions of Azerbaijan.
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