Fighting between Armenian-backed separatists loyal to the self-proclaimed Artsakh Republic and Azerbaijani forces in the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region in western Azerbaijan entered its fifth day on Thursday, October 1, despite calls by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for an immediate end to hostilities. Both sides have stated that artillery fire has occurred across the Line of Contact. Armenian authorities claimed that two French journalists had been injured during shelling in the town of Martuni (Gegharkunik province) and explosions were also reported in Stepanakert, the regional capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, where residents claimed that the city had been targeted by loitering munitions. Meanwhile, Azeri authorities stated that a civilian had been killed in Terter (Terter rayon; Azerbaijan) following Armenian shelling which reportedly damaged the city's train station. As of Thursday, Armenian authorities have claimed that at least 104 of their soldiers and 23 civilians have been killed in the five days of fighting. Azerbaijan has not commented on military casualty figures; however, authorities stated on Wednesday, September 30, that at least 12 Azeri civilians have been killed. On Thursday, the leaders of France, Russia, and the US, the co-chairs of the Minsk Group of the OSCE which is dedicated to mediating the conflict, called for a ceasefire and a return to negotiations.
Further clashes in and around the Nagorno-Karabakh region are highly likely over the near term. Clashes along the length of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border outside the Nagorno-Karabakh region cannot be ruled out. A heightened security presence and disruptions to transportation are expected.
The latest round of hostilities erupted on Sunday, September 27, when Azerbaijani forces reportedly carried out strikes on settlements in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, including the regional capital Stepanakert, causing at least two civilian fatalities. Residents of the area have been instructed to seek refuge in shelters. Following a retaliation by separatist forces, Azerbaijan launched what it claims to be a 'counter-offensive' in response. Both Armenia and Azerbaijan have used heavy weaponry and reported casualties and material losses. Both sides have released footage claiming to show the destruction of enemy armored vehicles and installations. A state of war, martial law, and mobilization have been declared in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the self-proclaimed Republic of Artsakh.
Armenia and neighboring Azerbaijan have a long-standing dispute over the possession of Nagorno-Karabakh, home to some 150,000 inhabitants (mostly ethnic Armenians) and located in the west of Azerbaijan. This issue has fueled tensions between the two countries since 1988; some 30,000 people were killed in fighting from 1990 to 1994. The two countries declared another ceasefire in April 2016 after the region experienced four days of violent clashes that left hundreds dead.
Tensions between the two countries remain high and each side frequently accuses the other of violating the ceasefire agreement.
Western governments generally advise their citizens against all travel to Nagorno-Karabakh and the Azerbaijan-Armenia border. Those in Armenia are advised to monitor developments and adhere to instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments.
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