Why Azerbaijan’s military action in this disputed area has sparked fears of a new war

Key Points
  • Azerbaijani officials say they have broken through an Armenian barricade in Nagorno-Karabakh.
  • Armenia has denied having forces in the area.
  • According to Ethnic Armenians, two people were killed and 23 were injured in the conflict.
Azerbaijan has begun what it called an “anti-terrorist operation” targeting Armenian military positions in the Nagorno-Karabakh region amid reports of heavy artillery firing around its capital.
Azerbaijani forces have broken through a line of contact with Armenian forces in several areas of Nagorno-Karabakh and are determined to fulfil their strategic goals, Hikmet Hajiyev, foreign policy adviser to President Ilham Aliyev says.
Karabakh is a mountainous region internationally recognised as Azerbaijani, part of which is run by breakaway ethnic Armenians who say it is their ancestral homeland.

Armenia on Tuesday denied having any forces in the area.

A woman seen outside a government building holding up a white sign.

Armenian police stand guard as people hold signs during a protest against Azerbaijan’s military actions outside the government building in central Yerevan, Armenia. Source: EPA / NAREK ALEKSANYAN

However, many Armenians have in the past volunteered to fight for Nagorno-Karabakh.

Hajiyev said Azerbaijan would only be ready to talk to the Karabakh Armenians once they had raised the white flag and disarmed.

Why has Azerbaijan attacked the area

He said Azerbaijan had no military objectives in neighbouring Armenia.

“The intention of Azerbaijan is to close a chapter of animosity and confrontation,” he said.

“Enough is enough. We cannot tolerate any longer having such armed forces on our territory and also a structure which, on a daily basis, challenges the security and sovereignty of Azerbaijan.”

He said Azerbaijan believed that what he called its anti-terrorism action would achieve its strategic goal of ensuring full sovereignty over its territory.

Concerns of a full scale war

Ethnic Armenian officials said two civilians were killed and 23 wounded amid heavy artillery fire around Nagorno-Karabakh’s capital.
Azerbaijan’s authorities also accused Armenian forces of killing a civilian, which brought the civilian death toll of Tuesday’s hostilities to at least three.
The Azerbaijani defence ministry announced the start of the operation hours after four soldiers and two civilians died in landmine explosions in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The reports raised concerns that a full-scale war over the region could resume between Azerbaijan and Armenia, which fought heavily for six weeks in 2020.

Ethnic Armenian officials in Nagorno-Karabakh said in a statement that the region’s capital Stepanakert and other villages were “under intense shelling”.
Nagorno-Karabakh human rights ombudsman Geghan Stepanyan said two people were killed in the firing – including one child – and 23 were wounded.
At least eight of those injured also are children, according to Stepanyan.
The Azerbaijani Prosecutor General’s Office said Tuesday that Armenian forces fired at Shusha, a well-known city in Nagorno-Karabakh under Azerbaijan’s control, from large-caliber weapons, and one civilian was killed there as a result.

Although Azerbaijan said the operation was limited to military targets, the defence ministry said that “humanitarian corridors” had been created to allow people to leave “the danger zone”.