Turkey on Tuesday firmly sided with its regional ally Azerbaijan in the latest deadly outbreak of violence in the Caucasus, telling Armenia to “cease its provocations” against Baku, Agence France-Presse reported.
Clashes erupted overnight along the volatile Azerbaijan-Armenia border near the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, leaving troops dead on both sides, defense ministries in Baku and Yerevan said.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said 49 troops had died, making this the deadliest escalation since the two side fought a six-week war over Nagorno-Karabakh that claimed more than 6,500 lives.
“Armenia should cease its provocations and focus on peace negotiations and cooperation with Azerbaijan,” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu tweeted after a phone call with Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov.
Turkey backed Baku in the 2020 conflict, supplying it with combat drones that helped Azerbaijan claw back large parts of the territory it lost in Nagorno-Karabakh in a brutal war that followed the Soviet Union’s breakup in 1991.
The latest flare-up risks marring ongoing talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan to sign a peace agreement.
It also risks stalling new efforts between Turkey and Armenia to strike a reconciliation agreement that would put an end to decades of hostile relations dating back to the genocide or Armenians by the Ottomans during World War I.
Armenia said that Azerbaijani forces “launched intensive shelling, with artillery and large-caliber firearms, against Armenian military positions in the direction of the cities of Goris, Sotk, and Jermuk” shortly after midnight.
But Azerbaijan’s defense ministry accused Armenia of “large-scale subversive acts” near the districts of Dashkesan, Kelbajar and Lachin on the border, adding that its army positions “came under fire, including from trench mortars.”