At least 30 soldiers—possibly far more—have been killed in two days of renewed fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. Azerbaijan claims it has now retaken land occupied by Armenian forces, destroying six tanks and killing more than 100 troops. Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev accused Armenia of violating international law in launching a new offensive. His government also refuted a statement by the Armenia-backed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic that the fighting has ceased; Baku says active military operations continue. Seen as Armenia’s de facto protector, Russian President Vladimir Putin nonetheless urged both sides to stop fighting and “show restraint.” Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, however, asserted his role as Azerbaijan’s protector. He told the press: “We pray our Azerbaijani brothers will prevail in these clashes with the least casualties… We will support Azerbaijan to the end.”
Erdogan also blasted the Minsk Group—led by Russia, the US and France—for its failure to resolve the conflict. “We are faced with such incidents because the Minsk Group underestimated the situation,” Erdogan said.
Nagorno-Karabakh has been under the control of separatists backed by the Armenian military since a war over the enclave ended in with a truce 1994—after a cost of some 30,000 lives. The new fighting is the worst since the truce. Nagorno-Karabakh, predominantly ethnic Armenian, was awarded to Azerbaijan in 1922 by Joseph Stalin. Nobody has formally recognized Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Armenia; even the Armenian government has made no move to annex the territory, despite militarily backing the separatist regime there. (Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, Focus Information Agency, RFE/RL, World Bulletin, World Bulletin, CSM)