YEREVAN / BAKU (Reuters) – For the second day in a row, Armenian and Azeri troops have continued to clash in Nagorno-Karabakh, with both sides accusing each other of using heavy artillery amid reports of more than 60 dead and hundreds of wounded.
The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the most serious since 2016, has raised concerns about stability in the South Caucasus, which is a corridor for pipelines transporting oil and gas to world markets.
Representatives of Nagorno-Karabakh said on Monday that another 28 soldiers died in battles with Azerbaijani forces, bringing the total number of casualties on their part to 59 people.
There have long been disagreements between the two countries over the split from Azerbaijan, mainly ethnic Armenian in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which declared independence during the conflict that erupted shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev signed an order on partial mobilization after the fighting last weekend. During the clashes in Nagorno-Karabakh, which began last weekend, 6 Azerbaijanis were killed and 19 wounded, the country's defense minister said.
On Sunday, Nagorno-Karabakh reported the death of 16 servicemen and the injury of more than 100 people as a result of air and artillery shelling from Azerbaijan.
Nagorno-Karabakh said it had reclaimed part of the territory it lost on Sunday and added that Azerbaijan used heavy artillery to shell the regions.
The Armenian Defense Ministry reported that hostilities continued throughout the night and resumed in the morning, while the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry reported that Armenian forces were shelling the city of Tartar.
China and Russia called on both sides to show restraint.
The Kremlin has called for an immediate end to hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Armenia on Monday accused Turkey of fighting “side by side with Azerbaijan” in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, and Istanbul provided Baku with military equipment, the Armenian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Turkey has deployed about 4,000 militants from northern Syria to Azerbaijan, the Armenian Ambassador to Russia said, quoted by Interfax.
According to international law, Nagorno-Karabakh is recognized as part of Azerbaijan. But ethnic Armenians, who make up the overwhelming majority of the population, reject Azerbaijani rule.
Self-government in the republic is carried out with the support of Armenia.
Despite the 1994 ceasefire agreement following the deaths of thousands of people and the appearance of hundreds of thousands of refugees, Azerbaijan and Armenia often blame each other for attacks near Nagorno-Karabakh and along the Azerbaijani-Armenian border.
Pipelines exporting Caspian oil and natural gas from Azerbaijan run close to Nagorno-Karabakh.
At least 200 people died in the outbreak of conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in April 2016. At least 16 people died in clashes in July.
(Nvard Hovhannisyan and Nailya Bagirova, with contributions from Tom Balmfort; translated by Caleb Davis.)