Azerbaijan says at least four cities outside the occupied Karabakh conflict zone are being attacked by Armenian forces.
The fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces continued over Nagorno-Karabakh, with Azerbaijan accusing Armenia of targeting their cities that are far beyond the conflict zone.
Hikmet Hajiyev, aide to Azerbaijani President Ilkham Aliyev, said on Sunday that Armenia targeted large cities Ganja and Mingachevir with missile strikes.
Ganja, home to several hundred thousand residents and the country's second-largest city, is located roughly 100 kilometers (about 60 miles) away from Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh’s capital, and so is Mingachevir.
The clashes erupted on September 27 and have killed dozens, marking the biggest escalation in the decades-old conflict over the region.
Hajiyev on Sunday tweeted a video depicting damaged buildings, and called it the result of “Armenia’s massive missile attacks against dense residential areas” in Ganja.
Hajiyev said in another tweet that Armenian forces also hit Mingachevir, which “hosts a water reservoir and key electricity plant,” with a missile strike.
According to Hajiyev , no serious damage was inflicted on the infrastructure in Mingachevir, but “civilians (have been) wounded.”
Armenian forces also launched missile attacks on the Khizi and Absheron regions of Azerbaijan, according Hajiyev.
Results of Armenia's massive missile attacks against dense residential areas in Ganja city. Azerbaijan retains its right to take adequate measures against legitimate military targets to defend civilians and enforce Armenia to peace. 4 new missile just hit Ganja. pic.twitter.com/GInYCJyJc6— Hikmet Hajiyev (@HikmetHajiyev) October 4, 2020
Armenia denies claims
Armenia’s Defence Ministry vehemently denied the claims.
The ministry's spokeswoman Shushan Stepanian wrote on Facebook that “no fire was opened from Armenia in the direction of Azerbaijan” and called the accusations “desperate convulsions of the Azerbaijani side.”
Nagorno-Karabakh’s leader, Arayik Harutyunyan, said on Facebook that he ordered “rocket attacks to neutralise military objects” in Ganja, but later told his forces to stop firing to avoid civilian casualties.
His spokesman Vahram Poghosyan told Armenian media on Sunday evening there was no reason for Nagorno-Karabakh forces to target Mingachevir.
Azerbaijani officials denied that any military objects had been hit in Ganja, but said the attack caused damage to civilian infrastructure.
One civilian has been killed, and 32 others sustained injuries, authorities said.
“Opening fire on the territory of Azerbaijan from the territory of Armenia is clearly provocative and expands the zone of hostilities,” Azerbaijani Defence Minister Zakir Hasanov said in a statement on Sunday.
Liberation of Jabrayil
President Ilham Aliyev congratulated the people of Azerbaijan on the liberation of the city of Jabrayil from Armenian occupation and set several conditions to end military operations, including the withdrawal of Armenian troops from occupied territories.
In an address to the nation, Aliyev said the end of Azerbaijani operations to liberate their land would only occur when Armenian forces retreat from Azerbaijani territory and the country’s territorial integrity is recognised.
He also asked Armenian President Armen Sarkissian to apologise to the Azerbaijani people and to declare that Karabakh is not Armenian land.
Aliyev said Sarkissian should also reveal the date of the withdrawal of Armenian troops from occupied territories.
He vowed to rebuild all of the cities that were liberated including restoring all mosques that were damaged by Armenian forces.
Saying they have been waiting in hope for years to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict through negotiations, Aliyev recalled that in response to this, Armenia had stated that they would not return the land.
"In the current situation, the sole responsibility lies with the Yerevan administration. At the same time, some countries that ignore this issue and always support Armenia are also responsible," he said.
Upper Karabakh conflict
Relations between the two former Soviet republics have been tense since 1991, when the Armenian military occupied Upper Karabakh, an internationally recognised territory of Azerbaijan.
Multiple UN resolutions as well as many international organizations demand the withdrawal of the invading forces.
The OSCE Minsk Group, co-chaired by France, Russia and the US, was formed in 1992 to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, but to no avail. A cease-fire, however, was agreed upon in 1994.
Many world powers including Russia, France and the US have called for an immediate cease-fire. Turkey, meanwhile, has supported Baku's right to self-defence.