Azerbaijan, Armenia pass blame on each other for clashes, declare martial law

Sunday’s clashes between Azerbaijani and Armenian armed forces in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region broke out due to “Armenian provocation,” Azerbaijani authorities said in several statements, while Armenian authorities said Azerbaijan had “launched an attack along the Nagorno-Karabakh line of contact.” Both countries have since declared martial law.

“On the morning of September 27, the Azerbaijani army attacked the entire line of contact following rocket and artillery fire," BBC Azerbaijani cited an Armenian Defence Ministry spokesman as saying. “All the responsibility falls on the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan.”

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan declared martial law in the country. In a social media post, Pashinyan said:

“Dear compatriots, by the decision of the Government of the Republic of Armenia, martial law and general mobilization have been declared. I call on the troops to gather at the regional military commissariats.”

Pashinyan issued another statement on his office’s official website, where he said:

“We are well aware that the Azerbaijani dictatorship may launch military operations in the direction of the borders of the Republic of Armenia and resort to various provocations to completely destabilize the situation in the region. This is the reason why a state of martial law and a general mobilization have been declared in the Republic of Armenia by the decision of the government.”

The offician Twitter account for Armenia posted a photo with the caption, "Faith & Power!"

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said Azerbaijan had been provoked by Armenia, and that Azerbaijani soldiers were “fighting on their own land,” referring to Karabakh, BBC Azerbaijani reported.

“The bombardment of densely populated civilian areas and installations situated along the front line by Armenia's armed forces has been deliberate and targeted,” Hikmet Hajiyev, assistant to the Azerbaijani president, said in a statement.

Azerbaijani armed forces “are undertaking necessary counter-offensive measures to prevent Armenia's military aggression,” Hajiyev said.

Nagorno-Karabakh Ombudsman Artak Beglaryan called Azerbaijan’s actions a “wholescale attack,” and urged the international community to “assess the actions of Azerbaijan, especially in the context of the COVID-19 epidemic, to take measures to neutralize threats to the life and safety of thousands of people of the Republic of Artsakh,” in a Facebook post.

“Today the Azerbaijani Army is defending Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity on its own lands,” Aliyev said in a statement. “Armenia is an occupying state, this occupation must be ended and it will be.”

The Azerbaijani president said in another tweet, “The first fire, that wholesale artillery fire was opened by Armenia, and it was Azerbaijani soldiers who were first killed.” He later tweeted, “Karabakh is ours! Karabakh is Azerbaijan!”

Azerbaijan’s parliament adopted a resolution to declare martial law in some regions and provinces in the country on Sunday afternoon, state-run AZERTAG news agency reported.

Armenian journalist Rober Koptaş, former editor in chief for Turkey’s Armenian newspaper Agos, said Azerbaijan had been focusing on armament “for an attack such as today’s” for a long time, and that statements by Turkish authorities that the clashes were sparked by Armenian actions had not been true.

“Because naturally, under the current circumstances the Armenian side is on the defensive in and around Karabakh,” Koptaş said. “It was being assumed that preparations for an operation had been underway for a long time. Aliyev has frequently voiced a possibility of war in recent times.”

Turkish state-run media TRT Haber and Anadolu Agency started live coverage of the frontlines, “which shows that Turkey was aware of the operation,” Koptaş said.

“It also was not a coincidence,” he said, that the pro-government Daily Sabah had reported on Armenian troops receiving training from Kurdish forces that Turkey has designated terrorists last week.

The region that the two neighbours are fighting over, Naghorno-Karabakh, had broken away from Azerbaijan in 1991 with Armenian military support. Occasional clashes have continued after a 1994 ceasefire, and the latest series of events were kicked off in July, when clashes in the Tovuz/Tavush region on the Azerbaijani-Armenian border resulted in military casualties from both sides and the death of one Azerbaijani civilian.

Turkey has shown strong support for Azerbaijan, and there have been allegations of the country transferring Syrian fighters to support the Azerbaijani side in the conflict.