Azerbaijan and Armenia are accusing one another of firing directly into each other's territory and reject pressure to hold peace talks.
Armenian prime minister has asserted that peace talks with Azerbaijan under Russian mediation would be inappropriate, as fighting over the occupied Karabakh has entered its fourth day.
"It isn't very appropriate to speak of a summit between Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia at a time of intensive hostilities," Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan told Russia's Interfax news agency on Wednesday.
"A suitable atmosphere and conditions are needed for negotiations."
Armenia is not considering deploying peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh, Russian news agencies reported, citing Pashinyan.
It comes after leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia brushed off the suggestion of peace talks on Tuesday, accusing each other of obstructing negotiations over the occupied Karabakh, with dozens killed and injured in three days of heavy fighting.
Border clashes broke out early on Sunday when Armenian forces targeted Azerbaijani civilian settlements and military positions, leading to multiple casualties.
Relations between the two former Soviet nations have been tense since 1993, when Armenian forces occupied Upper Karabakh, an internationally-recognised territory of Azerbaijan.
Armenia 'brutally violated' international law
In the latest incident, Armenia said one of its warplanes was shot down by a fighter jet from Azerbaijan’s ally Turkey, killing the pilot, in what would be a major escalation of the violence. Both Turkey and Azerbaijan denied it.
Turkey is not a party to Azerbaijan’s conflict with Armenia and is only providing moral support to Baku, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev said on Tuesday.
“Rumours being spread by Armenia that Turkey is involved in the conflict are provocative,” President Aliyev told a Russian news channel.
Rejecting Armenia’s claims that a Turkish F-16 fighter jet had downed an Armenian Su-25 aircraft, Aliyev said Turkey’s F-16 jets were “in no way involved in the conflict.”
Ankara has also denied Armenia’s claim regarding the downed jet.
Aliyev stressed that Armenia had “brutally violated” international law by invading Azerbaijani territory.
UN calls for talks
The international community is calling for talks to end the decades-old conflict between the two former Soviet republics in the Caucasus Mountains region following a flareup of violence this week.
The UN Security Council called on Armenia and Azerbaijan Tuesday evening to immediately halt the fighting and urgently resume talks without preconditions. The UN’s most powerful body strongly condemned the use of force and backed Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ earlier call to stop the fighting, deescalate tensions, and resume talks “without delay."
Azerbaijan, Armenia accuse one another
Aliyev told Russian state TV channel Rossia 1 that Baku is committed to negotiating a resolution but that Armenia is obstructing the process.
“The Armenian prime minister publicly declares that Karabakh is (part of) Armenia, period. In this case, what kind of negotiating process can we talk about?” Aliyev said. He added that according to principles brokered by the Minsk group, which was set up in 1992 by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to resolve the conflict, “territories around the former Nagorno-Karabakh autonomous region should be transferred to Azerbaijan.”
President Aliyev noted that if Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan says “that Karabakh is Armenia and that we should negotiate with the so-called puppet regime of Nagorno-Karabakh, (he is) trying to break the format of negotiations that has existed for 20 years.”
Pashinyan, in turn, told the broadcaster that “it is very hard to talk about negotiations ... when specific military operations are underway”. He said there is no military solution to the conflict and called for a compromise.
But first, Azerbaijan must "immediately end (its) aggression towards Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia", Pashinyan said. “We all perceive this as an existential threat to our nation, we basically perceive it as a war that was declared to the Armenian people, and our people are now simply forced to use the right for self-defence.”
Since Sunday, the Nagorno-Karabakh Defence Ministry reported 84 servicemen were killed. Aliyev said 11 civilians were killed on its side, although he didn’t detail the country’s military casualties.
Both countries accused each other of firing into their territory outside of the Nagorno-Karabakh area on Tuesday.
The separatist region of about 4,400 square kilometres, or about the size of the US state of Delaware, is 50 kilometres from the Armenian border. Soldiers backed by Armenia also occupy some Azerbaijani territory outside the region.
Azerbaijan kills 2,300 Armenian soldiers
Meanwhile, at least 2,300 Armenian soldiers were neutralised in a counterattack launched by Azerbaijani troops to save their occupied territories.
In a statement, Azerbaijan's Defence Ministry said 2,300 Armenian soldiers were killed and wounded since September 27.
Also, approximately 130 tanks and armoured vehicles, more than 200 artillery and missile systems, approximately 25 air defence systems, six command and observation zone, five ammunition depots, approximately 50 anti-tank guns and 55 cars were destroyed, it added.
The ministry said Armenia targeted Azerbaijan's Terter region with artillery fire in the morning hours.
Infrastructure suffered damage in the region, while no civilians were injured in the attacks, it said.
Downing the jet was 'absolutely untrue'
Armenia also alleged that Turkey, which supports Azerbaijan, was involved. “Turkey, according to our information, looks for an excuse for a broader involvement in this conflict,” Pashinyan said.
The allegation of downing the jet was “absolutely untrue”, said Turkey's Communication Director Fahrettin Altun. Azerbaijani officials called it “another fantasy of the Armenian military propaganda machine”.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged Armenia to withdraw immediately from the separatist region, and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey is “by Azerbaijan’s side on the field and at the (negotiating) table”.
Armenian officials said that Turkey, a NATO member, is supplying Azerbaijan with fighters from Syria and weapons, including F-16 fighter jets. Both Azerbaijan and Turkey deny it.
The heart of the problem is the decades-old Armenian occupation of lands that belong to Azerbaijan. If the US politicians want to be constructive, they must pressure Armenia to end this occupation and stop making one-sided & prejudiced statements.— Fahrettin Altun (@fahrettinaltun) September 29, 2020
Shelling in the region
Earlier in the day, Azerbaijan's Defence Ministry said Armenian forces shelled the Dashkesan region in Azerbaijan. Armenian officials said Azerbaijani forces opened fire on a military unit in the Armenian town of Vardenis, setting a bus on fire and killing one civilian.
Armenia's Foreign Ministry denied shelling the region and said the reports were laying the groundwork for Azerbaijan "expanding the geography of hostilities, including the aggression against the Republic of Armenia".
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has pushed for "an immediate ceasefire and a return to the negotiating table" in phone calls with the leaders of both countries, her office said.
She told them the OSCE offers an appropriate forum for talks and that the two countries’ neighbours “should contribute to the peaceful solution”, said her spokesman, Steffen Seibert.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a visit to Greece that "both sides must stop the violence" and work "to return to substantive negotiations as quickly as possible".
Russia, which along with France and the United States co-chairs the Minsk group, urged every country to help facilitate a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
“We call on all countries, especially our partners such as Turkey, to do everything to convince the opposing parties to ceasefire and return to peacefully resolving the conflict by politico-diplomatic means,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to Pashinyan for the second time in three days, urging de-escalation and, like the other leaders, an immediate ceasefire on Tuesday.