Armenia vs Azerbaijan conflict: the dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region explained as major cities shelled

Violence has frequently erupted in the Nagorno-Karabakh region over the past few decades

Tuesday, 29th September 2020, 4:19 pm
Updated Monday, 5th October 2020, 12:17 pm
Both Armenia and Azerbaijan have declared martial law (Getty Images)
Both Armenia and Azerbaijan have declared martial law (Getty Images)

Fighting between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces in the hotly disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region shows no signs of abating.

Violence has spilled over into major cities with Azerbaijan’s second-largest city Ganja hit by Armenian shelling.

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Armenia say the shelling was in response to the Azerbaijani shelling of Nagorno-Karabakh capital Stepanakert.

More than 220 people have died since September 27.

Though internationally recognised as a part of Azerbaijan, the region is controlled by ethnic Armenians and is regarded as one of Europe’s frozen conflicts.

Nearly 100 people have died in three days of fighting including civilians.

This is the latest in a long line of conflicts which have plagued the disputed region, dating back to a bloody war in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The last time fighting was this intense was in 2016 when over 200 were killed in clashes.

There are fears that the conflict could destabilise the region with Azerbaijan backed by Turkey and Russia a close ally of Armenia, though Russia have called for an immediate ceasefire.

Why are the two sides in conflict?

Both modern-day Armenia and Azerbaijan became a part of the Soviet Union in the 1920s, and while Nagorno-Karabakh was an Armenia controlled region, the Soviet Union handed powers to Azerbaijan.

Over the following decades, Armenians in the region consistently made calls for the mountainous area to be returned to Armenian control.

This came to a head in the 1980s when the Soviet Union began to collapse and politicians in the region voted to join Armenia.

A violent conflict ensued when both declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1988, with tens of thousands of casualties recorded and hundreds of thousands displaced.

A ceasefire between the two countries was brokered by Russia in 1994, with Azerbaijan retaining control of the region.

Since then Nagorno-Karabakh has largely been governed by Armenian separatists who declared the region a republic.

A peace treaty has never been signed by the two countries and tension has flared up on several occasions in the past couple of decades.

Why did the most recent fighting flare up?

Both sides disagree on how fighting in the region flared up.

On Sunday morning (27 September), Armenia declared martial law and mobilised its forces, claiming Azerbaijan had launched a military operation inside the disputed region.

Azerbaijan said it only did so after Armenians shelled the area.

Azerbaijan claims to have taken over territory in the region, though this is disputed by Armenia.

In an escalation of the conflict Armenia have claimed that Turkey shot down one of their Soviet-made SU-25 with an F-15 fighter jet.