Clashes in the Tavush region of Azerbaijan represent the biggest flare up between the two former Soviet Republics since 2016.

Tensions continue to mount between Azerbaijan and Armenia after days of deadly clashes between the two South Caucasus states.

Azerbaijan has lost at least 11 soldiers and a civilian in the fighting since Sunday, while Armenia has reported four deaths among its soldiers although Baku says the toll is much higher.

Unlike previous clashes between the two former Soviet republics, which have been over the Armenian-occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region, the epicentre of the current flare-up lies further to the north on the recognised border between the two states in the Azerbaijani region of Tavush.

The skirmishes represent the most significant outbreak of violence between Azerbaijan and Armenia since clashes in 2016 left scores dead on both sides, and resulted in small but symbolic territorial gains for the Azerbaijanis.

Azerbaijan’s President Ilhan Aliyev has called the latest fighting “another provocation of Armenia”, while his Armenian counterpart, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, has said Baku bears responsibility for the “unpredictable consequences” of the fighting.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has given Baku his country’s backing and condemned Armenia’s actions.

“What Armenia did is unacceptable. It must get back to its senses,” he said

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also warned Armenia that Ankara will stand by Azerbaijan in the event of any escalation.

Turkey and Baku have strong historic and cultural ties, which date back to before Azerbaijan’s forced annexation into the Soviet Union

Pakistan, another strong ally of Baku, has also condemned what it called Armenian ‘provocations’.

Many Azerbaijanis angered by the latest flare up took to the streets of the capital Baku to demand action against Armenia and mourn those who had died in the fighting.

‘International bipolarity’

TRT World spoke to Azerbaijani Member of Parliament, Azay Guliyev, about the ongoing tensions. He said Armenia had endangered the lives of civilians living along the border region.

"This provocation by Armenia perpetrated along the border is yet another evidence that officials in Yerevan are not interested in the peaceful settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict through negotiations," said Guliyev, who is also the Vice-President of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly.

"By committing such provocative attacks, killing the civilian population and refusing to implement the relevant demands of international organisations Armenia isolates itself not only from the countries of the region, but also from the international community," Guliyev added.

The Azerbaijani official explained that Baku was seeking "the restoration of historical justice."

Guliyev further accused some international actors of helping fuel tensions by actively taking a role in the conflict.

“There is almost some kind of bipolarity among the countries and international organisations when it comes to the Armenia-Azerbaijani conflict,” he told TRT World.

“Some international actors demonstrate the justified position and condemn the attacks and aggression of Armenia, calling it to demonstrate at least some level of goodwill and return to the negotiations table.

“However, there is also a group of some states and organisations which just ignore the cases of anti-Azerbaijani activities by Armenia. Such a biased and unjustified position brings only more disengagement and increases the tension in the region and beyond.”

Displaced Azerbaijanis

Of Azerbaijan’s population of 10 million, around 1.2 million people are either ethnic Azerbaijani refugees from Armenia proper or internally displaced people from territory occupied by Armenian forces, such as Nagorno-Karabakh and its surrounding territory.

Many now live in IDP camps across the country, including in the capital Baku, with no idea when they can return to their homes.

According to Guliyev, any lasting settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan must include the return of those displaced to their homes.

“One million displaced people from the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region and 7 adjacent districts of Azerbaijan must return to their place of origin in a dignified way. 

“Co-existence of both Armenian and Azerbaijani communities of Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan must be unanimously supported by international organisations.”

The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan began in the late 1980s as the Soviet Union began to break up.

During the course of the conflict, Armenian forces seized large tracts of land which officially belonged to Azerbaijan.

Such seizures of territory were also accompanied by human rights violations against Azerbaijani civilians.

In one of the most notorious massacres of the war, Armenian troops killed 613 people, including more than a hundred women and 63 children, as they sought to ethnically cleanse the village of Khojaly

Armenia has since been accused of eliminating traces of Azerbaijani settlement in areas it now occupies.

Since the end of the war in 1994, Azerbaijan has heavily invested in its military thanks largely to its considerable natural gas and oil wealth derived wealth. 

Source: TRT World