Armenian and Azerbaijani forces clashed for a fourth consecutive day Wednesday over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, in an ongoing conflict that is threatening to erupt into all-out war.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry accused Armenian forces of shelling the Azerbaijani town of Tartar, while Armenian military officials said Azerbaijani forces bombed northern parts of the breakaway region where the Nagorno-Karabakh army was positioned.
Dozens of people have been killed and hundreds of others injured since intense fighting broke out Sunday between ethnic Armenian and Azeri forces. The violence has since spread to areas outside the enclave’s borders, threatening to escalate into war.
The conflict intensified on Tuesday as Armenia claimed a Turkish F-16 fighter jet shot down one of its SU-25 fighter planes in Armenian airspace, killing the pilot.
Turkey and Armenian denied the claims.
Speaking on Russian state television Tuesday, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan both rejected the possibility of talks, despite urgent appeals from Russia and the United States to end the violence.
The United Nations Security Council on Tuesday called for an immediate halt to the hostilities.
Also Tuesday, a spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke to both Aliyev and Pashinyan and called for “an immediate stop to the fighting, a de-escalation of tension and a return to meaningful negotiations without preconditions or delay.”
The United States on Sunday called for an end to the fighting. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus issued a statement saying the U.S. “condemns in the strongest terms this escalation of violence.”
She urged both sides to work with the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs “to return to substantive negotiations as soon as possible.”
The OSCE is the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The OSCE Minsk Group is tasked with finding a peaceful solution to the conflict.
The U.S., France and Russia co-chair the OSCE Minsk Group, which issued a joint statement Sunday concerning the “large scale military actions along the Line of Contact in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone.”
“We strongly condemn the use of force and regret the senseless loss of life, including civilians,” the co-chairs said. They appealed “to the sides to cease hostilities immediately and to resume negotiations to find a sustainable resolution of the conflict.”
They called on the parties in conflict to take “necessary measures to stabilize the situation on the ground,” adding that there is no alternative to a peaceful negotiated solution of the conflict.
Armenia and Azerbaijan declared martial law and troop mobilizations on Sunday amid fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Nagorno-Karabakh is within Azerbaijan’s borders but is governed by ethnic Armenians and supported by the Armenian government. The enclave seceded from Azerbaijan during the Nagorno-Karabakh War that ended in 1994 but has not been recognized by any country as an independent republic.
A war between the two former Soviet republics could also involve regional powers Turkey and Russia, which has a defense agreement with Armenia. The Turkish government supports its own ethnic Turkic kin in Azerbaijan.