On the morning of Sunday, Sep. 27 fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia reached its worst since 2016, killing at least 16 and wounding 100, according to a top official of the Nagorno-Karabakh territory; this figure includes civilians. An Armenian human rights ombudsman reports that an Armenian woman and child were killed in the clash, and Azerbaijan’s prosecutor’s office reports that five members of one family were killed. Azerbaijan’s president also announced military losses but denied Armenia’s claim to have shot down three tanks, two helicopters, and three unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
The fighting occurred in the long-disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, though it is unclear what caused this particular clash. The region of Nagorno-Karabakh is within Azerbaijan’s borders but has been occupied by ethnic Armenian forces backed by the Armenian government since 1994, at the end of a separatist war. (The region, which had been under Soviet control, did not want to be controlled by the Azeri government after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, leading to the separatist movement.)
Regional powers, including Russia, are encouraging a ceasefire to help stabilize the region, near which pipelines carrying Caspian oil and natural gas to Azerbaijan pass. In 1994, Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to a ceasefire, but there have been numerous conflicts since then. In April 2016, dozens from both sides were killed in the most intense conflict the region had seen in years.
Turkey, a close ally of Azerbaijan, has criticized Armenia for its role in the dispute Sunday. After a phone call with Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan Tweeted his support for Azerbaijan. In his Tweet, he called for the international community to stand with Azerbaijan against “occupation and oppression,” as well as for Armenians to fight against those who “use them like a puppet,” referring to the Armenian government.
Armenia did not immediately respond to the Tweeted criticism but claimed that Azerbaijan fired first Sunday. Since 1994, both sides have repeatedly accused the other of beginning conflicts.