Today, Saturday, Azerbaijani forces announced that they had advanced on the ground and took control of Armenian army strongholds, amid continuing battles between the two sides in the disputed Nagorno Karabakh region, and while the French President’s initiative to cease fire failed, Iran warned the two parties to the conflict against attacking its borders.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said today that its forces have made great progress in Nagorny Karabakh, and have seized new strongholds of the Armenian army.
The ministry added in a statement that the Azerbaijani army inflicted heavy losses on the Armenian army, including 300 tanks and military vehicles, 250 artillery and missile systems, and 38 air defense systems, including the “S-300” system (S-300), in addition to other equipment. She said, “Fierce battles continue along the front.”
A source in the Armenian government stated that Azerbaijan is massing huge forces along the border with Armenia “and not only in the conflict zone.”
Al-Jazeera correspondent reported that the city of Stepanakert, the capital of the Nagorno Karabakh region, is being bombed for the second day in a row, at a time when battles are continuing on the northeastern and southern fronts of the region between the Armenian and Azerbaijani forces.
A civilian was killed and others were wounded in the missile strikes that hit the city, and the Red Cross declared that civilians bear the brunt of the conflict.
On the other hand, the authorities of the Nagorno Karabakh region – unrecognized – said that the death toll of the Azerbaijani army exceeded 3 thousand soldiers.
The Armenian Defense Ministry said that the battles with the Azerbaijani army intensified since last night in the disputed region on the northern and western axes, with the concentration of large numbers of forces there, adding that the pro-Armenian forces successfully responded to the attacks of the Azeri forces.
It indicated that the defenses shot down two Azerbaijani army fighters on the front lines of the battles in the Nagorno Karabakh region.
Reuters reported that there had been no indications of response to French President Emmanuel Macron’s attempt to push the two sides to enter peace talks.
On Friday, Macron spoke with the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, and the Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan, and said in a statement that he had proposed a new way to return to the talks.
The current fighting is the fiercest since the 1990s, and reinforces fears of a wider regional war that may drag Russia and Turkey into, amid severe concerns for stability in the South Caucasus, which is the region that transports oil and gas from Azerbaijan to global markets.
On Friday, Armenia announced that it is ready to communicate with Russia, the United States and France in order to return to the ceasefire in Nagorno Karabakh.
The three countries co-chair the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which plays a mediating role in the conflict.
But Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev told Al-Jazeera in an interview on Friday that the Minsk group had failed over the past three decades to achieve progress in this conflict.
He added that his country does not ignore calls for a ceasefire, but that cannot be achieved before the withdrawal of Armenian forces from the lands of Azerbaijan, referring to the Nagorno Karabakh region and the 7 surrounding areas under its control since the 1990s.
For his part, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stressed that he stood by Azerbaijan and ruled out a ceasefire before Armenia withdrew “from all the lands it occupied.”
Meanwhile, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said that it would not bear any aggression from any party on its borders close to the conflict circle in the Nagorno Karabakh region.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry strongly warned all parties to the conflict in the region regarding the necessity to ensure that attacks on its borders are not repeated.
The Iranian official news agency (IRNA) reported in recent days that a number of missiles fell on the border areas in northwestern Iran as a result of the ongoing conflict on the other side of the border.
The shells fell in particular in the provinces of Aslanduz (Ardabil Province) and Khadakafrin (East Azerbaijan), resulting in the injury of a six-year-old child, and damage to homes and agricultural lands.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry said that it is monitoring with very high sensitivity all movements near its borders, and calls for an immediate end to the battles in the Nagorno Karabakh region.
She stressed the importance of respecting all Azerbaijani lands, and called for resolving the crisis in the region through dialogue.
It condemned the targeting of civilians during the ongoing conflict in Nagorno Karabakh, and said, “We are ready to support and facilitate a political solution.”