President Ilham Aliyev says his country is ready to use all means to recapture the territory under the control of ethnic Armenians if talks fail.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said his country’s armed forces would “go to the end” if negotiations did not lead to an agreement by the Armenian armed forces to withdraw from Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding regions.
Aliyev spoke during a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku on Sunday that Armenia “had no basis” to request Russian military aid in the conflict.
The conflict has focused on the growing influence of Turkey, an ally of Azerbaijan, in a former Soviet region that Russia views as being within its sphere of influence. Russia also has a security alliance with Armenia.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has asked Moscow to outline the level of support it can expect from Moscow.
In response, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced on Saturday that it would provide “all necessary assistance” should the conflict spill over to “the territory of Armenia” – land outside the current conflict zone.
Aliyev, quoted by the state news agency Azertac, said he wanted to resolve the conflict through negotiations that would lead to the withdrawal of Armenian forces.
“Otherwise,” he said, “we will definitely restore our territorial integrity and … we will go to the end.”
His comments came as the fighting over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region entered its sixth week on Sunday, and both sides blamed each other for new attacks.
Nagorno-Karabakh officials accused Azerbaijan of attacking the city of Martuni with military aviation and several other areas with rocket attacks overnight. Azerbaijani armed forces continued to fire at civilian settlements in the region that morning.
The Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense, for its part, denied targeting civilian areas and accused the Armenian armed forces of shooting at the positions of the Azerbaijani army on the Armenian-Azerbaijani state border. The ministry also said Armenian forces are bombarding settlements in the Terter and Aghjabedi regions.
Nagorno-Karabakh is located in Azerbaijan, but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces supported by Armenia since the end of a war in 1994. The most recent outbreak of hostilities began on September 27 and has left hundreds – if not thousands – dead, which is the worst escalation of the decades-long conflict between the two ex-Soviet nations in more than 25 years.
Nagorno-Karabakh officials said 1,166 of their troops and 45 civilians were killed. Azerbaijani authorities have not disclosed their military casualties, but say at least 91 civilians were killed and 400 injured in the fighting. Russian President Vladimir Putin said the actual death toll was significantly higher, according to Moscow, and approaching 5,000.
Azerbaijan’s progress on the battlefield since the fighting began has diminished the incentive for a lasting peace deal and hampered international efforts to reach a ceasefire. Three armistices did not hold.
In the latest attempt to ease tension, the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan met in Geneva on Friday for a day of talks brokered by Russia, the United States and France, the co-chairs of the so-called Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Security Cooperation in Europe trying to mediate the conflict.
Talks ended with both sides agreeing that they “will not deliberately take action against civilians or non-military objects in accordance with international humanitarian law,” but the deal was quickly challenged by reports of shelling of civilian settlements.
Azerbaijani troops, relying on drone strikes and long-range missile systems supplied by Turkey, have regained control of several regions on the edge of Nagorno-Karabakh and stepped up their offensive from the south.
On Thursday, the Nagorno-Karabakh leader announced that the Azerbaijani troops had advanced to within 5 km of the strategically located town of Shushi south of the capital Stepanakert, which is on the main road between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia.