UN Security Council wants to meet
Dead, injured and thousands of refugees in Nagorno-Karabakh
September 20, 2023, 7:37 a.m
Not a day has passed since Azerbaijan’s attack on Nagorno-Karabakh – and the consequences are devastating: thousands of people are fleeing and at least two dozen have died. Armenia complains of “ethnic cleansing”. The UN Security Council is scheduled to meet on Thursday.
More than two dozen people were killed on the first day of a military operation launched by Azerbaijan against the Armenian-inhabited South Caucasus region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The human rights commissioner for the internationally unrecognized Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh), Gegam Stepanyan, spoke of at least 27 deaths. There were at least seven civilians among them – three women, two children and two men. More than 200 other people were injured.
According to Stepanyan, more than 7,000 residents from 16 towns were brought to safety from Azerbaijani shelling. A major problem with the evacuation measures is the massive fuel shortage caused by a month-long Azerbaijani blockade of the region. Nagorno-Karabakh’s capital Stepanakert continued to be under fire on Tuesday evening. At the same time, Baku announced that it had captured 60 Armenian positions.
The Azerbaijani government spoke of “localized anti-terror operations” in Nagorno-Karabakh. These targeted Armenian military positions and facilities used by “separatists”. According to the Ministry of Defense in Baku, humanitarian corridors have been set up to evacuate civilians. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, however, spoke on television of an Azerbaijani “use of ground troops” with the aim of “ethnic cleansing” of the Armenian population in the enclave.
Authoritarian-run Azerbaijan began a broad military operation to conquer Nagorno-Karabakh on Tuesday morning. Although the region is located on Azerbaijani territory, the majority of it is inhabited by Armenians. The two former Soviet countries have been fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh for decades. The ceasefire after the last war in 2020, in which Azerbaijan, which was well-armed thanks to gas and oil revenues, had already conquered large parts of Karabakh, was repeatedly broken.
UN Security Council should meet
An emergency meeting of the UN Security Council was convened in New York on Thursday, diplomatic sources said. Armenia had previously asked the committee for help. On the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Italy’s Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio also met separately with his colleagues from Azerbaijan and Armenia and, according to a statement, offered Italian mediation. Iran also offered itself as a mediator. Azerbaijan cited the laying down of arms and the abdication of the Armenian leadership in the Nagorno-Karabakh region as a condition for the end of the current military operation.
Azerbaijan has been criticized internationally for its violent actions. Chancellor Olaf Scholz once again called for an end to the violence. “I am convinced that the renewed military activities will lead to a dead end,” said Scholz at the UN general debate in New York. “They have to end.” He had previously stated that it was about “returning to the path of diplomacy.” Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock demanded: “Azerbaijan must stop the shelling immediately and return to the negotiating table.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made similar comments. In a telephone conversation with Azerbaijan’s leader Ilham Aliyev, he emphasized that there was no military solution and that the parties had to resume dialogue, as Foreign Ministry spokesman Matthew Miller said. Blinken noted Aliyev’s expressed willingness to stop military actions and hold a meeting of representatives of Azerbaijan and the people of Nagorno-Karabakh. Blinken emphasized that this must be implemented immediately. Backing for Baku, however, came from Turkey.
Turkey, which is also Islamic, is considered Azerbaijan’s protecting power, while Christian Orthodox Armenia traditionally relies on the support of Russia, which also has its own soldiers stationed in the region. Russia, which is waging a war of aggression in Ukraine that has left thousands dead, called on the parties to the conflict to avoid civilian casualties and immediately stop hostilities. “Due to the rapid escalation of the armed conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, we call on the parties to the conflict to immediately end the bloodshed, cease hostilities and avoid casualties among the civilian population,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, as reported by the state news agency TASS announced.
Russia needs soldiers in the war against Ukraine
Now, however, Moscow needs its fighters primarily for its own war of aggression against Ukraine. Observers had therefore already feared that Azerbaijan could use this unstable situation for military action. Even before the latest shelling began, the humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh was catastrophic because Azerbaijan blocked Armenia’s only access to the exclave – the so-called Lachin corridor.
Violent protests against the government broke out in Armenia’s capital Yerevan on Tuesday evening and there were clashes with the police. According to media reports, the officers used stun grenades. The demonstrators demanded more decisive action from Prime Minister Pashinyan and support for the Armenian residents of Nagorno-Karabakh. The Russian embassy in Yerevan was also surrounded by angry people. According to the Armenian Ministry of Health, 16 police officers and 18 demonstrators were injured in the city center by evening.