Armenia, Azerbaijan reject Russia-mediated talks - blog - Sept. 30

Armenia and Azerbaijan rejected international calls for negotiations and a halt to fighting as fierce clashes over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh continued, Moscow Times said.

Armenia said on Wednesday that talks with Azerbaijan were not yet on the table.

"It isn't very appropriate to speak of a summit between Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia at a time of intensive hostilities," Moscow Times cited Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan as saying.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev also declined negotiations on Tuesday. "The Armenian prime minister publicly declares that Karabakh is Armenia, period. In this case, what kind of negotiation process can we talk about?" he said during a televised interview on Russian TV.

The fighting, which raged for a fourth day on Wednesday, have killed dozens of soldiers and at least 11 civilians, according to statements by the two governments. The conflict has threatened to widen as both sides accused each other of targeting border areas outside Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenian officials said Turkey was deploying F-16 fighter jets in the conflict.

(All times local Turkish time, GMT+3)

23:45 - Ruling AKP Deputy Chairman calls on Turkic republics to stand with Azerbaijan

Deputy Chairman for Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Numan Kurtulmuş said Turkic republics should stand with Azerbaijan diplomatically and show their fraternity.

Armenia had “launched an unjustified attack and put itself in a bad position internationally,” Kurtulmuş told Azerbaijani state television AZ TV, Ulusal Kanal reported.

Armenia “was desperate in the face of the valiant fight of the Azerbaijani army,” and thus “turned the matter into black propaganda,” Kurtulmuş said.

The OSCE Minsk group “never once told Armenia to stop in 30 years,” he continued. “This means openly taking sides.”

23:30 - Resolution only possible ‘if Armenia’s occupation ends,’ - Turkish Presidential Spokesman

Turkey’s Presidential Spokesman İbrahim Kalın told pro-government newspaper Sabah on Wednesday that Armenia was illegally occupying Azerbaijani territory, and the only solution to tensions in the Caucasus was to end it.

The Nagorno-Karabakh issue will “only end if the Armenian occupation comes to an end,” Kalın said. “Without this, the cease-fire and negotiations will only serve as temporary solutions.”

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group, created in 1992 to resolve the matter, failed in its task for nearly 30 years, Kalın said, accusing it of not being neutral. The spokesman said the OSCE initiative was influenced by Armenian diaspora lobbies in France and United States.

“Ending the occupation is for Armenia’s own good too,” he continued. “When it does this, it will enrich its own economy through economic integration.”

23:15 - Russian FM Lavrov speaks with Azerbaijani, Armenian counterparts

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke on the phone with Azerbaijani and Armenian foreign ministers Jeyhun Bayramov and Zohrab Mnatsakanyan separately on Wednesday to discuss the ongoing conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, the ministry said in a statement.

Lavrov called for an immediate ceasefire and de-escalation, “as well as for the prevention of provocative and militant rhetoric,” the statement said.

Russia will continue to push for mediation to settle the conflict “by political and diplomatic means.”  

"Lavrov finally intervened after 3.5 days of silence," Russia expert Kerim Has tweeted. "Enough of this fighting, Lavrov told them. The whistle has practically been blown for a break to war."

22:15 - Russia confirms transfer of Syrian, Libyan militiamen to Nagorno-Karabakh

The Russian Foreign Ministry said it was “deeply concerned” by the deployment of Syrian and Libyan militiamen to the Nagorno-Karabakh region, Agence France-Presse reported on Wednesday, supporting previous accusations Armenia brought against Turkey.

“Fighters of illegal armed groups including from Syria and Libya are being deployed to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone in order to directly take part in fighting,” AFP cited the Russian ministry as saying.

Russia urged relevant parties to prevent the use of foreign “terrorists and mercenaries,” reported Reuters, also citing two Syrian sources on Turkey sending fighters to support Azerbaijan. Both countries have denied the allegations.

19:30 - Georgian PM: We are ready to mediate between Azerbaijan and Armenia

Georgia released a statement on Wednesday that it is ready to hold a meeting of representatives of the conflicting parties in Tbilisi. It said, “Our common interest is to establish peace in the region as soon as possible. Georgia is ready to support this process in any possible way, including holding a meeting of representatives of the conflicting parties in Tbilisi in order to conduct a dialogue,” the Prime Minister noted.

Gakharia also called on the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs and international actors to make the most of their opportunities in order to end the escalation of the conflict and resume dialogue.

Statement continued: 

Historically, our ethnic Azerbaijani and Armenian citizens living in Georgia have always played a great role in the development and strengthening of our country, as well as the entire region. At the same time, their peaceful coexistence is a good example demonstrating that Georgians, Armenians, and Azerbaijanis have the potential to turn the entire South Caucasus into an area of peace and development

18:45 - Turkey is an unrenounceable actor for the region's stability - Italian FM

Italian foreign minister Luigi Di Mago said it’s necessary to address the root causes of tension, starting from the definition of maritime jurisdictions between Turkey and Greece during a press briefing with the visiting US counterpart Mike Pompeo. 

Secretary Pompeo spent days in Greek cities before moving to Italy. During the briefing, Mago said that he told Secretary Pompeo that it should not to be forgotten that "Turkey is an unrenounceable actor for the stability of the region and an important member of NATO." MInister said therefore it is "fundamental to work together, being able to rely on the positive influence that the United States can exercise in order to encourage Turkey to keep demonstrating a constructive approach, both with respect to Cyprus and Greece in order to find a shared solution." In this activity, the role played by the United States can be absolutely essential."

18:30 - Armenia to release evidence of Turkish military involvement ‘soon’

Armenian Defence Ministry Spokesman Artsrun Hovhannisyan told reporters on Wednesday that the country would soon release radio-technical intelligence data as evidence that Turkish F-16 fighter jets were used in the ongoing conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Turkish jets did not withdraw from Azerbaijan after joint military exercises in August, Hovhannisyan said, adding that the jets had been conducting reconnaissance flights before the conflict broke out on Sunday.

“We know very well what fighter jets they have,” Hovhannisyan was cited by Armenia’s state-run Armenpress news agency as saying. “And we know very well that their fighter jets are unable to carry out missions and that’s why the F-16s are there.”

13:50 - Armenia, Azerbaijan reject Russia-mediated talks

Armenia and Azerbaijan rejected international calls for negotiations and a halt to fighting as fierce clashes over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh continued, Moscow Times said.

Armenia said on Wednesday that talks with Azerbaijan were not yet on the table.

13:30 - Three Armenian civilians killed in Nagorno-Karabakh town – Armenian state media

An Azeri attack on Martakert, a town in Nagorno-Karabakh region, killed three civilians on Wednesday, state-run Armenpress news agency reported.

“An enemy warplane bombed the town of Martakert just now, killing three peaceful civilians, many are wounded. Official Baku is overtly attacking peaceful civilians, ignoring all norms of international law,” Armenpress cited Vahram Poghosyan, spokesman of Artsakh president, as saying.

13;30 - U.N. calls on Armenia, Azerbaijan to end fighting

The United Nations Security Council called for an immediate ceasefire between Azerbaijan and Armenia in battles over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. 

France has called for an urgent meeting of the Minsk Group, co-chaired by Russia, France and the United States, to help end the fighting, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

12:50 - More than 3,000 mercenaries left Libya - observatory 

An official from General Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) said over 3,000 mercenaries, mostly Syrian nationals, who were deployed to Libya by Turkey had begun to leave the war-torn country, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported.

LNA's comment comes at a time when Turkey has been accused of sending Syrian mercenaries to Azerbaijan. Both Ankara and Baku denied the claims.

12:30 - Macron slams Turkey's aggressive rhetoric on Nagorno-Karabakh dispute

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday that Turkey’s “warlike” rhetoric was encouraging Azerbaijan to reconquer Nagorno-Karabakh and that was unacceptable, Reuters reported.

“France remains extremely concerned by the warlike messages Turkey had in the last hours, which essentially remove any of Azerbaijan's inhibitions in reconquering Nagorno-Karabakh. And that we won’t accept,” Macron said.

12:00 - Armenia publishes photos of SU-25 warplane 'shot down by Turkish F-16 jet'

The Armenian government posted pictures of the wreckage of a plane that it said was a SU-25 warplane shot down by a Turkish fighter jet on Sept 29.

Turkey and Azerbaijan have denied Armenia's claim that a Turkish F-16 fighter jet shot down the Armenian plane, killing the pilot. 

11:25 - Turkey stands by Azerbaijan to end Armenian occupation, foreign minister says

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Turkey would support Azerbaijan's efforts to end Armenian occupation in Nagorno-Karabakh, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

"We said that if Azerbaijan wants to solve the problem of the Armenian occupation on the ground, we will stand by Azerbaijan," Çavuşoğlu said in an interview with Anadolu, adding that Azerbaijan has "the ability to liberate its occupied lands by itself".

11:00 - Armenia is weak, military solution to Nagorno-Karabakh possible - scholar

Azerbaijan could break the present stalemate in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region through military action as Armenia is weak defensively, said Gallia Lindenstrauss, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.

“In broad terms, Armenia is in a weaker spot, so there is a chance for a military accomplishment that might end the stagnant stalemate. We can’t rule that out," Lindenstrauss told news website the Media Line on Tuesday.

10:30 - Syrian Turkmen fighters sent to Azerbaijan – observatory

Over 300 Syrian Turkmen fighters have been deployed to Azerbaijan by Turkey to support Baku in its ongoing conflict with Armenia, according to a war monitor and a Syrian rebel commander, Voice of America said.

“These Syrian fighters come from two ethnic Turkmen armed groups, including the Sultan Murad Division and the Suleyman Shah Brigade,” Rami Abdulrahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told VOA in a phone interview. 

SOHR reported the death of the first Syrian fighter in Azerbaijan on Wednesday.

10:00 - Azerbaijan says neutralised 2,300 Armenian soldiers

Azerbaijan's Defence Ministry said that some 2,300 Armenian soldiers were killed or wounded by Azerbaijani army since Sept. 27.

Nearly 130 tanks and other armoured vehicles, more than 200 artillery, rocket launchers and mortars, 25 air defence systems, 6 observation posts, 5 ammunition depots, and 50 anti-tank vehicles were destroyed by Azerbaijan since the clashes erupted on Sunday, the statement said.

9:20 - Turkey tells U.S. Armenia must withdraw army from disputed region

Turkey's Presidential Spokesman Ibrahim Kalın told U.S. National Security Advisor Robert C. O'Brien in a phone call on Tuesday that Armenia's withdrawal from Nagorno-Karabakh was essential for regional peace and stability, according to a statement by the Turkish presidency.

Kalın said Turkey would continue to support Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and independence.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu reiterated Kalın's remarks in a press conference with Azerbaijan’s ambassador to Turkey, Khazar Ibrahim, saying that the dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan could only be solved with the withdrawal of Armenia from Azerbaijani territories, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

8:50 - Turkish denies sending Syrian fighters to support Azerbaijan

Ömer Çelik, the spokesman for Turkey’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP), denied reports that Turkey sent Syrian fighters to help its ally Azerbaijan, saying the allegations were part of Armenia’s attempts to create “dark propaganda” about Turkey, Milliyet newspaper reported late on Tuesday.

On Monday, Armenia’s ambassador to Moscow said Turkey had sent around 4,000 fighters from Turkish-controlled northern Syria to Azerbaijan and that they joined battles in Nagorno-Karabakh.

23:10 - Chairman of powerful Committee says U.S. should not tolerate Turkey's meddling in Karabakh conflict

Head of the powerful House Foreign Relations Committee called on "leaders in Azerbaijan and Armenia to take concrete steps to de-escalate the situation, end hostilities, and refrain from seizing territory across the line of contact."

Like Biden, Democrat leader at the House also called on U.S. government not to tolerate Turkey disrupting the peace process and exacerbating the conflict. Engel wrote, "Turkey's recklessly meddling in the conflict is troubling." 

"The international community must remain committed to the peace process." the statement added.

23:00 - Azerbaijani, Armenian leaders accuse each other on Russian state television

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan accused each other of firing directly into each other’s territory and shut down any possibility of peace talks, while also giving conflicting accounts on Turkey’s involvement in the ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Aliyev flatly ruled out any peace talks on Russian state television, Reuters reported, while Pashinyan said at the same channel later that talks could not take place while fighting continued.

“This is the new model of Russian mediation,” Turkish Russia analyst Kerim Has said in a tweet. The analyst recounted Aliyev as rejecting Turkish involvement in clashes, and Pashinyan saying Turkey “could have left behind soldiers in the region following military exercises.”

21:00 - Pro-gov’t media boasts Turkish drones’ proximity to Armenian capital

Unarmed aerial combat vehicles that belong to the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) have been flying near the Armenian capital, pro-government daily Yeni Şafak reported on Tuesday.

The Bayraktar TB2 drones are flying some 25 km from Armenian capital Yerevan, Yeni Şafak said.

Turkish-made drones have been used extensively in the Azerbaijani armed forces’ operation against Armenia, it added. The drones that belong to the TSK are flying along the border between Armenia and Turkey.