Armenia’s Prime Minister Accuses Turkey of ‘Reinstating the Ottoman Empire’ in Sending Mercenaries to Nagorno Karabakh

Armenia’s Prime Minister Accuses Turkey of ‘Reinstating the Ottoman Empire’ in Sending Mercenaries to Nagorno Karabakh

When Armenia and Azerbaijan resumed Europe’s oldest “frozen struggle” over the breakaway territory of Nagorno Karabakh on Sept 27, the intimate nature of the preventing—between trenches so shut that troopers on opposing sides may shout to one another in some locations—gave the misunderstanding of a bitter however parochial skirmish.

In actual fact, the battle already threatens to bleed past the mountainous 1700-square mile enclave within the South Caucasus to engulf Azerbaijan and Armenia in all-out struggle, and dangers scary an excellent wider conflagration. In an interview with TIME, Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan doubled down on accusations that its bitter rival Turkey is already intervening militarily on behalf of Azerbaijan, claiming President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is vying to increase his affect within the area.

“Armenia and Karabakh have now change into a civilizational entrance line,” Pashinyan informed TIME by cellphone on Oct. 2, accusing Erdogan of sending between 1,500–2,000 Syrian “terrorists” to the area in help of Azerbaijan, a rustic with whom Turkey shares deep cultural and financial ties. In live performance with Turkey’s army incursions into Syria and Libya and its risky maritime standoff within the East Mediterranean, Pashinyan claimed: “Turkey’s motion is nothing wanting motion aimed toward reinstating the Ottoman empire.”

Turkey’s and Azerbaijan’s overseas ministries have each denied utilizing that Turkey is intervening instantly or utilizing mercenaries, though President Erdogan has pledged to help “brotherly Azerbaijan” with “all our means.” However Turkey, which has referred to as for Armenia to “depart the land it occupied” is much from the one nation with pores and skin within the recreation. Iran, which is allied with Armenia however homes a big ethnic-Azerbaijani inhabitants, warned each Armenia and Azerbaijan towards “intrusion” into its territory amid reviews of rockets and even helicopters falling under its northern border. The battle probably places Turkey at odds with each Russia, which has deep ties with each nations, and France, which has accused Erdogan of sending “jihadists” into battle. Georgia, in the meantime, has expressed alarm over the escalation and provided its capital Tbilisi as a impartial venue for talks.

Learn extra: The Armenia-Azerbaijan Preventing May Spiral Into A Bigger Regional Battle

The battle is finest understood within the context of pipeline politics involving main powers jockeying for geopolitical affect within the oil-rich Center East and neighboring Caucasus, says Charlotte Dennett, an knowledgeable in resource-based politics. American and British oil firms have because the mid-1990s poured billions of {dollars} into Azerbaijan, whose three main transnational oil pipelines run just a few miles from the Nagorno Karabakh line of contact.

“Small marvel that regional leaders and their intelligence businesses are watching the entire area with heightened concern,” Dennett tells TIME. “A single spark may set off a conflagration that might engulf all the world.”


Valery Sharifulin—TASS/Getty Pictures BARDA, AZERBAIJAN – OCTOBER 5, 2020: Azerbaijani servicemen are pictured in a personnel provider.

Whereas tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia return a whole lot of years, the battle over Nagorno-Karabakh is a more moderen concern. It dates again to the autumn of the Soviet Union when a brutal six-year struggle killed about 30,000 folks earlier than it resulted in a 1994 ceasefire that left Armenia in de-facto management of the territory, regardless that the worldwide group considers it Azerbaijani land.

Numerous peace processes led by the so-called Minsk Group coalition of Russia, France, and the U.S. have did not resolve the decades-long dispute. After a threeway Oct.1 name between French President Emmanuel Macron, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and U.S. President Donald Trump, the tripartite coalition referred to as for a direct ceasefire, however its persistent failure to advance a peace course of has broken its credibility, significantly with Azerbaijan. Solely two days earlier than preventing broke out, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev complained to the UN Common Meeting of the Minsk Group’s lack of progress and repeatedly acknowledged his need to revive Azerbaijan’s management of Nagorno Karabakh and its adjoining territories.

“For us certainly, it’s a patriotic struggle,” Overseas Ministry spokeswoman Leyla Abdullayeva informed TIME on Oct. 3. The Minsk Group’s neutrality doesn’t acknowledge the continued violations of the rights of the hundreds of 1000’s of Azerbaijanis expelled from the realm, she mentioned, or that Armenia is the occupying drive. “We have to get rid of the very fact of occupation, in any other case we is not going to see lasting peace and safety within the area.”

Pashinyan, who got here to energy in 2018 after main Armenia’s peaceable Velvet Revolution, had briefly raised hopes of a peaceable resolution to the bitter battle. However Azerbaijan was angered by Pashinyan’s son enterprise army service in Nagorno Karabakh, in addition to Armenia internet hosting its 2019 pan-Armenian video games in its fundamental metropolis, Stepanakert. In August 2019, Pashinyan declaring in a speech that Nagorno Karabakh “belongs to Armenia, interval.”

Learn extra: Armenia’s Peaceable Protester Takes Energy in a Cold Revolution

Requested whether or not his actions within the run-up to the battle had been provocative, Pahsinyan informed TIME that when he got here to energy he made a historic name for an answer that met the wants of Azerbaijanis in addition to Armenians. His subsequent statements got here solely in response to Aliyev’s reiteration of Azerbaijan’s maximalist place, he mentioned.

In a televised handle to the nation on Oct 4, Aliyev reiterated his situation for a ceasefire: that each one Armenian forces “abandon our territory,” a situation Armenia would definitely reject. “That is the top. We confirmed them who we’re. We’re chasing them like canine.”

Pashinyan mentioned Armenia’s circumstances for a ceasefire are Turkey “discontinuing [its] engagement” and “the withdrawal of mercenaries and terrorists or their elimination.” He claimed, with out presenting proof, that mercenaries had been harassing Azerbaijani villages, demanding the implementation of shariah legislation, and ransacking outlets promoting alcohol. In his interview with TIME on Oct 2, Pashinyan estimated 1,500–2,000 “terrorists” had been current; earlier, Armenia’s ambassador to Russia had recommended there have been 4000.

Regardless of these obvious inconsistencies, there’s a rising consensus that at the least some Syrians fighters are concerned within the battle. Each France and Russia have accused Turkey of deploying mercenaries within the South Caucasus, because it has in Libya. The Guardian has spoken with Syrian fighters in Azerbaijan who say they had been recruited by a Turkish contractor in July. And cellphone footage that circulated on social media seems to indicate Arabic-speaking fighters celebrating the seize of an Armenian army barracks on Oct.3. That very same location options in a video Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Protection posted on the identical date. Screens have additionally geolocated images of what seem like Syrian fighters to Azerbaijan.

Olesya Vartanyan, Worldwide Disaster Group’s (ICG) senior analyst for the Southern Caucasus says “there is no such thing as a proof” to help Azerbaijan’s counterclaims that Armenia is utilizing overseas mercenaries from the Center East.

On the Nagorno Karabakh frontline, the preventing continues to worsen. Greater than 220 troopers and at the least 19 civilians had been killed in Armenian-controlled territory and Aremina correct by Oct 5. Web blackouts enforced by Baku, in addition to electrical energy cuts, make correct info troublesome to acquire, however Azerbaijan’s overseas ministry informed TIME on Oct 3. that 19 Azerbaijani civilians had been killed and 300 homes destroyed, together with colleges, kindergartens, and different civilian infrastructure.

Learn extra: Why Erdogan’s Love Affair with the Ottoman Empire Ought to Fear The World

Within the mountainous northeast, the positioning of a few of the heaviest preventing, some army outposts have modified palms twice or extra since Sept 28, suggesting a protracted and bloody battle. Footage screens deem credible seems to indicate cluster bombs being utilized in civilian-populated streets of Stepanakert—which had beforehand turned out its lights to keep away from airstrikes and went darkish on Oct 5. In the meantime, at the least one civilian was reportedly killed and 4 extra wounded in a rocket strike in Ganja, Azerbaijan’s second-largest metropolis some 60 miles north. Azerbaijan accuses Armenia of intentionally focusing on civilian infrastructure. Turkey has accused it of “focusing on civilians.”

De-escalation may but occur. Russia, which has a army base in Armenia but additionally maintains shut ties to Baku elites, is the likeliest mediator. The drawback, says ICG’s Vartanyan, is that “neither Russia, not the French nor the People have any type of real looking peace plan that might present a substitute for Baku in order that it returns to talks in an effort to obtain its targets of the fast return of its management over the battle zone.”

“The longer the preventing goes on, the extra superior weapons which might be used, the extra civilian and army casualties mount, and the additional the preventing extends past the disputed territory,” she says, “the extra probably outdoors army intervention turns into.”