Putin, Erdoğan talk Nagorno-Karabakh as Armenia reports significant losses

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan discussed ways to resolve a conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenian over the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh as Armenia reported “numerous” casualties in the fighting.

Putin and Erdoğan spoke by phone on Wednesday as a ceasefire, brokered by Russia in Moscow late last week, appeared to be failing.

The Russian presidency said the two leaders "stressed the urgent need for joint efforts to end the bloodshed as soon as possible and move to a peaceful settlement”, according to the Moscow Times. Erdoğan told Putin that Turkey, which backs Azerbaijan in the conflict, wants a permanent solution to the dispute.

Russia and Turkey are finding themselves on opposite sides of a resurgent, decades-old dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, potentially threatening warming relations between the two countries that have disturbed Turkey’s NATO partners. The fighting, which began on Sept. 27, has threatened to widen from the majority-Armenian enclave and draw in other regional powers, which also include Iran.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday that Russia has never considered Turkey as its strategic ally, rather as a close partner. Russia disagreed with Turkey and Azerbaijan that a military solution to the conflict was possible, he said.

In a televised national address on Wednesday, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said Armenia had suffered significant losses as Azeri forces pushed on with a military assault, the BBC reported. Both sides have accused the other of breaking the ceasefire this week.

"We all need to know that we are facing a difficult situation," Pashinyan said. Armenian forces were still in general control and had also inflicted numerous casualties on Azeri forces, he said.

Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a war over Nagorno-Karabakh between 1988 and 1994 that killed some 30,000 people and displaced about 1 million more. They declared a ceasefire in 1994 but have failed to agree a peace treaty.

Russia is a co-chair of the Minsk Group, which also includes France and the United States. It is tasked by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) of reaching a peaceful solution.

Azerbaijan, which has called for Turkey to also be made a co-chair of the Minsk Group due to its emerging global status, said it repelled attacks by Armenian forces overnight, inflicting serious casualties.

Turkey and Azerbaijan enjoy close political and military ties. Russia and France have accused Ankara of sending mercenaries from Syria to fight in the conflict, a charge it denies. The Turkish government has also stationed F-16 fighter aircraft in Azerbaijan.

The Azeri military destroyed two Armenian tanks, an anti-aircraft system and four missile batteries in the latest fighting, the country’s Defence Ministry said, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Thursday.

Azeri President Ilham Aliyev accused Armenia of trying to attack its oil and natural gas pipelines in comments to Turkish broadcaster Habertürk on Wednesday. Aliyev said Pashinyan was dragging Armenia into a disaster.

“Today, there is a full dictatorship governing Armenia,’’ he said  

As of Tuesday, Karabakh officials said their total military death toll was 542, rising by 17 from Monday. Azerbaijan said 42 Azeri civilians had been killed and 206 wounded since the fighting erupted. Azerbaijan has not disclosed military casualties.