On September 12 and 13, Azerbaijan attacked positions within Armenia. The most extensive fighting between the two nations since the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War, which lasted until late on September 14th, was sparked by this. Azerbaijani rockets and mortars struck at least 23 locations in the provinces of Syunik, Gegharkunik, and Vayots Dzor, which are close to the Armenian border.
While Azerbaijan reported the deaths of 77 soldiers, Armenia claimed that 135 of its soldiers perished. In Armenia, one civilian death and numerous civilian injuries have been reported. Armenia declared a ceasefire in the early hours of September 15th. Although hostilities have ended, Azerbaijan has not yet made a statement regarding the truce.
The decades-long conflict between the two countries.
Over three decades have passed since Armenia and Azerbaijan began fighting over the separatist Nagorno-Karabakh territory. The mountainous region is part of Azerbaijan but has been under the authority of ethnic Armenian forces supported by Armenia since a separatist struggle there concluded in 1994.
About the size of the U.S. state of Delaware, the southern Caucasus region spans an area of 4,400 square kilometers.
The region, primarily populated by Armenians, enjoyed autonomy inside Azerbaijan throughout the Soviet era. As the Soviet Union broke apart in its final years, long-simmering tensions between Christian Armenians and primarily Muslim Azeris, stoked by memories of the 1915 murder of 1.5 million Armenians by Muslim Ottoman Turks, erupted.
Fighting broke out when the area launched a bid to join Armenia in 1988. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, hostilities turned into a full-fledged conflict that claimed 30,000 lives and forced 1 million people to flee their homes. When the battle ended in 1994 with a ceasefire, Armenian forces held Nagorno-Karabakh itself and sizable portions of the area outside the territory’s borders.
Azerbaijan began the “Iron Fist” offensive on September 27th, 2020, to retake control of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Significant support was provided by NATO member Turkey, which has strong ties to Azerbaijan on an ethnic, cultural, and historical level.
Azeri troops pushed Armenian forces from regions they held outside the separatist enclave after six weeks of battle, employing heavy artillery, rockets, and drones that killed more than 6,700 people. They also conquered large portions of Nagorno-Karabakh itself.
On November 10th, a peace agreement brokered by Russia allowed Azerbaijan to retake control of the regions outside of Nagorno-Karabakh that had been held by Armenian forces for nearly three decades, including the Lachin area, which controls the critical road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia. Additionally, Armenian soldiers consented to relinquish command over substantial portions of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Years of unrest in Armenia followed the accord, where the opposition blasted it as a betrayal of the nation’s interests and demanded Nikol Pashinyan quit as prime minister.
What transpired on September 13 and 14 in Armenia and Azerbaijan?
On September 13th, at around 1:00 in the morning, Azerbaijan accused Armenia of “large-scale provocations” in Dashkasan, Kalbajar, and Lachin, Azerbaijan, earlier that evening. Following the Nagorno-Karabakh war in 2020, the authority of the latter two districts was transferred to Azerbaijan.
The Armenian military allegedly buried explosives there to obstruct the mobility of Azerbaijani forces and the development of civilian infrastructure, according to the foreign ministry of Azerbaijan. Additionally, it said that ‘intensive fire’ had been launched towards Azerbaijani positions by Armenian forces.
Azerbaijan began attacking Armenian territory early on September 13th and continued to do so for many days, striking at least 23 border towns. The country maintained this was in response to Armenia’s “provocation.”
Armenia has denied launching any military actions on Azerbaijani soil and has attributed sole responsibility for the strikes to the Azerbaijani government.
Azerbaijani fire during the two-day war struck military installations and residential and municipal infrastructure. Azerbaijan asserted that civilian and residential buildings were permissible targets because Armenia allegedly used them as fire positions.
Nikol Pashinyan, the prime minister of Armenia, declared on the evening of September 14th that his country was prepared to recognize Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity in exchange for the latter’s willingness to do the same for Armenia and “come to an agreement.” In response to his statements, tens of thousands of people protested in the streets of Yerevan, Gyumri, and Stepanakert in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. As soon as it became clear that no precise agreement was being considered, the Armenian leadership claimed that Nagorno-Karabakh was never a “territorial issue” for Armenia but rather a “matter of rights,” especially the right of peoples to self-determination.
A truce was declared by Armenia shortly after midnight, and it was reportedly established “with the cooperation of the international community.” What outside parties were involved in mediating the ceasefire is unknown. It has remained in place thus far.