Fighting between Armenian-backed separatists loyal to the self-proclaimed Artsakh Republic and Azeri forces in the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region in western Azerbaijan continued on Friday, October 9, as representatives of the Armenian and Azeri governments met for ceasefire talks in Moscow. Fighting occurred across the Line of Contact on Friday and Azeri authorities have claimed that Armenian forces attacked targets deep within Azerbaijan. Meanwhile, Karabakh authorities claimed that the city of Stepanakert had been shelled. Azeri authorities also claimed that they had captured the towns of Jabrayil and Hadrud in addition to a number of villages; however, this has not been verified. The foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan were invited to talks in Moscow by the Russian government following a meeting by representatives of France, Russia, and the US at Geneva aimed at establishing an end to hostilities.
Over 400 people have been reportedly killed since fighting broke out on September 27, and on Friday the defense ministry of Nagorno-Karabakh stated that 376 of their fighters and 22 civilians had been killed since fighting began. Azeri authorities have not commented on military casualties but have stated that 31 civilians had been killed and 168 others wounded as of Thursday, October 8.
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 September 27, when Azerbaijani forces reportedly carried out strikes on settlements in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, including the regional capital Stepanakert. Following retaliatory attacks by separatist forces, Azerbaijan launched what it claims to be a 'counter-offensive' in response. Both Armenia and Azerbaijan have made extensive use of heavy weapons during the clashes, including artillery and loitering munitions, and 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.
On October 1, the leaders of France, Russia, and the US, the co-chairs of the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which is dedicated to mediating the conflict, called for a ceasefire and a return to negotiations. Armenia responded by stating that it was prepared to work with the OCSE to renew the ceasefire, but Azeri authorities have not responded and have previously stated that Armenia must withdraw from Nagorno-Karabakh to avoid further escalation.
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; with some 30,000 people being 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 Azerbaijan are advised to monitor developments and adhere to instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments.
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