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New clashes in Nago-Karabak; Pompeo says Turkey is worsening the situation

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YEREVAN / BAKU (Reuters) – Armenian and Azeri forces fought new clashes Friday, dashed hopes of ending nearly three weeks of fighting over the Nago-Karabakh enclave, and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Turkey for the escalation. of the situation by arming the Azeris.

A man stands near a car, which according to locals was damaged by recent bombings, during a military conflict over the breakaway region of Nago-Karabak, in the settlement of Karmir Shuka, October 16, 2020. REUTERS / Stringer

Worst outbreak of violence in the South Caucasus since Armenia and Azerbaijan entered the enclave war in the 1990s, the fighting risks creating a humanitarian catastrophe, especially if it involves Russia and Turkey.

Nagar-Karabakh is internationally known as part of Azerbaijan but populated and ruled by ethnic Armenians.

Turkey has increased military exports six times this year for its close ally Azerbaijan. Russia is close to both sides but has a defense pact with Armenia. The RIA news agency reported that the Russian navy had begun planned military exercises in the Caspian Sea.

(Graph: Ethnic Tensions in Nago-Karabak,)

On Friday there were other signs that a Russia-brokered ceasefire was agreed last Saturday to allow the parties to exchange detainees and the bodies of those killed had been dismantled.

Armenia and Azerbaijan each blamed each other for launching the attacks and each said they had the upper hand.

Armenian Defense Ministry official Artsrun Hovhannisyan said that Azerbaijan had carried out artillery bombardment of Nago-Karabakh from the north, with total disregard for the humanitarian ceasefire. He added that Azerbaijani forces had retreated and suffered significant losses.

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said that the Nago-Karabakh forces were forced to withdraw and the Azeri forces maintained the advantage along the line of contact separating the parties.

Reuters could not independently verify these reports.

Baku also accused Yerevan of a rocket attack on Ordubad in the autonomous province of Nakhchivan, a region that belongs to Azerbaijan but is surrounded by Armenia and Iran. Armenia denied such an attack.

The Nago-Karabak defense ministry reported 29 more military casualties, bringing to 633 the number of servicemen killed since fighting broke out on September 27th. The ombudsman for the regions said civilian deaths now stood at 34.

Azerbaijan does not detect military casualties. The General Prosecutor’s Office of Azerbaijan said that 47 civilians were killed and 222 were injured.

CRITICISM OF TURKEY

Hostilities, near pipelines in Azerbaijan that transport gas and oil to global markets, are troubling Europe and the United States that Turkey and Russia, already in dispute over Syria and Libya, will drag on.

(Chart: Turkey’s arms exports to Azerbaijan increase,)

Pompeo said Turkey had exacerbated the conflict, calling for a diplomatic solution, rather than third-country countries coming in to give their firepower to what is already a dust barrel of a situation, he said. he transmitter WSB Atlanta.

The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said Pompeo’s remarks were inconsistent with official US government statements on the conflict.

The remarks also do not correspond to the status of the United States as one of the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, he said, referring to the committee set up by the OSCE security observer to mediate in Nago-Karabakh. .

Ankara accuses Armenia of illegally occupying Azerbaijani territory. Armenia says Turkey has encouraged Azerbaijan to pursue a military solution to the conflict, endangering Armenian civilians.

Armenian Foreign Minister says Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan had spoken by telephone with UN Secretary-General Antnio Guterres, urging the international community to neutralize the Azeri actions he said posed an existential threat to the people of Nagarabah. -Karabakut.

Meanwhile, Iran wrote on Twitter that its Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had offered Tehran the Azeri side assistance in the peace process.

ECONOMIC DEMI

The conflict between the two former Soviet republics threatens to further damage their economies, already hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and, in the case of Azerbaijan, weak oil prices.

With 43,280 COVID-19 cases, Azerbaijan said it would close secondary schools and close the underground railway system in the capital Baku between October 19th and November 2nd.

Armenia said on Friday the case load had risen to 61,460.

In forecasts drawn up before the fighting began, the World Bank predicted that Armenia’s economy would shrink by 6.3% this year, while expecting Azerbaijan to contract 4.2%.

(Graph: Azerbaijan economy of Armenia,)

Additional reporting by Margarita Antidze in Tbilisi and Humeyra Pamuk in Washington; Written by Sujata Rao; Edited by Timothy Heritage, Peter Graff and Toby Chopra

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