Biden calls on Turkey to stay away from Nagorno-Karabakh conflict - blog - Sept. 29

On the third day of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over provocations at the border near the Nagorno-Karabakh region that both countries have alleged to have been started by the other, an Azerbaijani air strike hit a bus in Armenia’s southeastern region of Vardenis on Tuesday, killing one civilian, the Armenian government said in a statement.

Earlier in the day, the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry said the Armenian army shelled Azerbaijan's northwestern Dashkesen region on the border between the two countries, state-run Anadolu news agency reported. Dashkesen is miles away from Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia denied the statement.

The incidents risk escalating and expanding the already heavy fighting between the Azerbaijani military and Armenian separatists in the breakaway state of Nagorno-Karabakh into a greater conflict. Turkey and Azerbaijan are close political and military allies.

Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan said the Vardenis air strike was carried out by a Turkish-made drone. The act would “receive adequate military and political response”, he said on Twitter.

Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan vowed a “swift and powerful” response to the strike.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has labelled Armenia "the biggest threat to peace in the region" and demanded the country immediately pull its forces out of Azerbaijan.

Armenia and the Karabakh government accuse Turkey of actively supporting Azerbaijani forces by deploying F-16 fighter jets to the country and Syrian mercenaries in the clashes.

(All times local Turkish time, GMT+3)

23:10 - Chairman of powerful Committee says US 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.

20:15 - Biden calls on Turkey to stay away

Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. senator Joe Biden in a tweet message on Tuesday said Turkey should “stay out of” the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Quoting a statement from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan calling on Armenia to withdraw from what he called Azerbaijan’s lands, Biden urged U.S. President Donald J. Trump to “call the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan immediately to de-escalate the situation.”

Trump had said he was "looking at it very strongly," and that his administration would "see if we can stop it," during a news briefing on Sunday, when the current conflict broke out. 

19:50 - Turkish Armenian deputy condemns targeting of Azerbaijani anti-war activist

Azerbaijani intelligence officers raided the home of activist Giyas Ibrahimov and detained him over anti-war social media posts on Monday, Open Caucasus Media reported. Ibrahimov was released after questioning.

“Pseudo-patriots say they want a war now to prevent the conflict from being passed on to future generations. They can’t see that they don’t let the next generation come,” Ibrahimov had posted on his Facebook account.

“I salute my Azeri brother who stood against the war,” tweeted Garo Paylan, a Turkish Armenian lawmaker from the left-wing pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). “As Armenians and Azeris who demand peace we must be louder than the war drums. There are no winners in war, no losers in peace.”

19:30 - Azerbaijani President says ‘Turkey not party to conflict’

Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev said Turkey was not a party to the conflict with Armenia, adding that it played a stabilizing role in the region, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

Turkish media quoted Aliyev as saying Turkey also provided “moral support.”

Aliyev rejected any possibility of talks with Armenia over the ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, and called its demands unacceptable.

The Azerbaijani president had denied that Turkey sent any Syrian fighters to aid his country’s military campaign at the Armenian border. The Armenian ambassador to Russia had earlier alleged the arrival of some 4,000 militiamen to Baku.

18:30 - Ankara-supported Syrian opposition commander says Syrian fighters sent to Azarbaijan


A commander of the Ankara-backed Syrian National Army, General Ziyad Hajji Ubayd, said that the rebel force had sent fighters to Azerbaijan.

“The fighters have to go to the conflict in Azerbaijan to provide for their families due to poor economic conditions,” Ubayd told Iraqi Kurdistan news broadcaster Rudaw late on Monday, adding that Turkey has provided financial support to more than 70,000 of its members.

“We are ready to fight everywhere for Turkey's national interests and security. We defend our interests to achieve our goals,” Ubayd said.

Syrian opposition fighters signed up to work for a private Turkish security company as border guards in Azerbaijan a month ago, the Guardian said citing volunteers who said they registered with militia leaders and brokers who promised work abroad. It did not name the company.

Two of the volunteers said they were summoned to a military camp in Afrin on Sept. 13 and were offered work guarding observation posts and oil and gas facilities in Azerbaijan on three- or six-month contracts at 7,000-10,000 Turkish lira ($900-$1,285) a month, the Guardian said. The salary was much higher than the 450-550 liras per month that Syrian rebels earn to fight pro-Assad forces, it said.

“Our leader told us that we won’t be fighting, just assisting in guarding some areas,” the Guardian cited one of the fighters as saying. “Our salaries aren’t enough for living, so we see it a great opportunity to make money.”

17:50 - Erdoğan's top aide denies downing of Armenian aircraft claims

Turkey's Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun denied claims saying that an Armenian aircraft was shot down by a Turkish aircraft.

"The claim that Turkish F-16s shot down the Armenian aircraft is not true," Altun said.

According to the Armenian Ministry of Defense, an Armenian Sukhoi Su-25 was shot down by a Turkish F-16 that took off from the Ganja Airbase in Azerbaijan.

“The Turkish F16 was around 60km deep into Armenian territory and flying at an altitude of 8200 meters,” the Armenian Unified Infocenter said.

“Armenian Su-25 was shot down by a Turkish F-16 that took off from the Ganja airbase in Azerbaijan,” Armenian government's official Twitter account said.

17:15 - Turkey provoking nationalists against Armenian residents, HDP deputy says

Garo Paylan, a deputy from pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), said Turkish authorities' green light for nationalists to hold demonstrations in front of the Armenian Patriarchate in Istanbul was a provocation.

“It is a provocation to allow for such a demonstration on the street where the Armenian Patriarchate is located. I call on the government to take the necessary measures for our patriarchate and institutions. The result of hate speech is a hate crime. Put an end to the politics of hate!” Paylan said on Twitter.

16:50 - Turkish interparliamentary union group head makes phone call to Azerbaijani parliament speaker

Ravza Kavakçı, president of the Turkish Interparliamentary Union Group of the parliament, made a phone call to Sahiba Gafarova, speaker of the Azerbaijani parliament, state-run news agency Azertag reported on Tuesday.

"The Speaker of the Parliament stressed the importance of the support of Turkish officials and public figures to Azerbaijan regarding the course of events in Nagorno-Karabakh. Mrs Gafarova noted during her phone conversation with her counterpart Mustafa Şentop, the Chairman of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey mentioned his country supports Azerbaijan`s just position," Azertag said.

16:30 - Senior AKP official says attack on Azerbaijan equal to attack on Turkey 

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Deputy Chairman Numan Kurtulmuş said on Tuesday that an attack on Azerbaijan is equal to an offensive against Turkey, Milliyet reported.

"Any attack by Armenia on an Azerbaijani settlement is equal to an attack on a Turkish settlement. Turkey expects that the international community will not act hypocritically, will put an end to Armenia’s provocative outbursts and will support the just actions of Azerbaijan," Kurtulmuş said.

16:10 - Kremlin Urges Turkey to Work for Ceasefire in Karabakh

Russia urged Turkey to work to bring an end to deadly clashes in the Nagorno-Karabakh separatist region as Ankara has strongly backed Azerbaijan, AFP reported.

"We call on all sides, especially partner countries such as Turkey to do all they can for a ceasefire and get back to a peaceful settlement of this conflict using political and diplomatic means," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

Moscow's appeal came after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Monday demanded Armenia put an end to its "occupation" of Nagorno-Karabakh and called for Armenia to leave the territory, which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan.

15:55 – U.S. disengagement risks escalating Armenia-Azerbaijan clashes

U.S. disengagement from the South Caucasus makes the risk of a further escalation in armed clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan 'alarmingly high', Thomas de Waal, British journalist and senior associate at Carnegie Europe, said in an article for Politico on Tuesday.

"The flare-up can also be seen as a symptom of a world in which the U.S. is no longer acting to defuse regional conflicts," de Waal said.

15:45 – Merkel urges Armenian, Azerbaijani leaders for immediate ceasefire

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has pushed for an immediate ceasefire in phone calls with the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday.

Merkel underlined the urgency of “an immediate cease-fire and a return to the negotiating table”, AP cited Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert as saying in a statement.

She told the two leaders that the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe offers an appropriate forum for talks and that the two countries’ neighbours “should contribute to the peaceful solution”, Seibert said.

15:20 – Possible attack in Armenia risks dragging in third parties - former EU adviser

The confirmation of reports that Azerbaijan shelled an Armenian town on Tuesday could escalate the Nagorno-Karabakh border clashes into an international conflict, Diogo Pinto, a former political adviser to the European Parliament, said in a series of Twitter posts.

Russia and Armenia have a defence pact, while Turkey and Azerbaijan enjoy strong political and security ties.

Pinto called on the international community “to raise its game fast” to protect Armenia from Turkey, pointing to countries’ lukewarm reactions to Ankara’s separate activities in the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean.

“We looked the other way when (Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdoğan bought oil from ISIS in exchange of arms; we tolerated when he invaded Syria and Iraq to kill the Kurds; we appeased him when he messed with our own Cyprus & Greece ... will we now let him finish what the Turks started in 1915?” he said.

14:35 – Turkey’s defence facilities are at Azerbaijan’s disposal - industry chief

Turkey’s defence facilities are at Azerbaijan’s disposal in the country’s fight with Armenian forces, Yeni Şafak columnist Mehmet Acer cited Turkish Defence Industry Director İsmail Demir as saying.

“We stand by Azerbaijan with all of Turkey’s means,” Acer cited Demir as telling him on a TV programme on Kanal 7. Demir relayed the comments in a regular column for Yeni Şafak on Monday.

13:55 – Azerbaijan launched drone strike in Armenia, causes civilian casualty - Armenian foreign minister

An Azerbaijani drone strike on the Armenian southeastern town of Vardenis killed at least one civilian, Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan said on Tuesday.

He said the strike was carried out by a Turkish-made drone and the act would “receive adequate military and political response”.

13:35 – Armenian hackers down Azerbaijani government websites - info security analyst

Armenian hackers have downed official websites of Azerbaijan’s government, Armenian information security analyst Samvel Martirosyan said on Tuesday.

The cyber-attack’s targets included Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and the Defence Ministry, Martirosyan said on Twitter.

11:45 – Heavy fighting continues on the frontline

Armenian and Azerbaijani forces deployed heavy artillery on Tuesday in the latest fighting, both sides said.

The Azerbaijani Defence Ministry said Armenian forces attempted but failed to recover lost ground in the Fuzuli-Jabrayil and Agdere-Terter border regions, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

The ministry said in a statement that the Azerbaijani military destroyed a convoy of Armenian armoured vehicles setting off from the village of Madagiz, while destroying another tank and vehicle and neutralising 10 soldiers near Fuzuli-Jabrayil.

The Armenian army shelled the Dashkesen region on the border between the two countries, the ministry said. The region is miles away from Nagorno-Karabakh.

Armenia denied those reports, but said that fighting had occurred throughout the night, Reuters said.

11:15 – U.N. to hold emergency talks on Armenia-Azerbaijan as Syrians join conflict

The Guardian newspaper reported that the United Nations Security Council will hold emergency talks late on Tuesday to discuss the clashes and how to end them.

Belgium formally requested the U.N. session, which will take place at midnight Turkish time, after France, Germany and Britain pushed for it to be placed on the agenda, the British newspaper said, citing diplomats.

The closed-door meeting comes as the Syrian National Army, a pro-Turkey group fighting against President Bashar Assad’s military in Syria, said its fighters were joining the conflict.

The armed clashes between regional rivals and neighbours Azerbaijan and Armenia are raging during annual meetings of the U.N. General Assembly and are raising fears of a war between the two South Caucasus countries. Russia, which has a defence pact with Armenia, has called on the two sides to put an end to the clashes.

The fighting that started on Sunday is the latest flare-up in an ongoing dispute over the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh region. Although the area is officially recognised as part of Azerbaijan, it is governed as a de facto independent state with an ethnic Armenian majority.

At least 95 people have been killed in the most recent fighting, including 11 civilians, the Guardian said.

19:30 – Erdoğan, Johnson hold phone call, discussing Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan spoke over the phone with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to discuss bilateral ties, the recently escalated conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan and the tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, state-run Anadolu news agency said.

19:00 – Turks-Azeris hold protest in front of Armenian Patriarchate in Istanbul

A group of Turks and Azeris held a protest in front of the Armenian Patriarchate in Istanbul's Kumkapı neighbourhood, with a convoy of cars displaying the flag of Azerbaijan.