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World 'We will never leave': Armenia and Azerbaijan have fought over disputed region for decades

02:25  11 october  2020
02:25  11 october  2020 Source:   latimes.com

Exclusive: Armenia, Azerbaijan Speak Out, Here's What They Want from U.S.

  Exclusive: Armenia, Azerbaijan Speak Out, Here's What They Want from U.S. As their countries battle at home, Newsweek spoke to Armenian and Azerbaijani ambassadors to the U.S., who disagree on much but both see Washington as having an important role in resolving their deadly conflict.But there's one thing they do agree on—things can never be the same.

The latest outburst of fighting between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces began on 27 September and left hundreds of people dead in the biggest escalation of the decades -old conflict over The region lies in Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia .

Fierce fighting raged for a second day following a flare-up of a decades -old conflict in the Caucasus region of south-eastern Europe. Dozens of deaths were reported in battles between forces fighting for Armenia and Azerbaijan on Monday. At the heart of the conflict is a dispute over control of the

The sirens silent for the time being, Vartan Abrahamian, a 53-year-old social worker and retired soldier, returned to seal the broken windows on his home in the capital of this disputed territory.

a person sitting on a bench in front of a building: Residents pray Oct. 10 at the Holy Mother of God Cathedral in Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh, the mountainous region between Armenia and Azerbaijan. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times) © Provided by The LA Times Residents pray Oct. 10 at the Holy Mother of God Cathedral in Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh, the mountainous region between Armenia and Azerbaijan. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

“We’re used to it. For myself I’m not worried,” Abrahamian said of the hostilities raging once more in Nagorno-Karabakh, the mountainous region tucked between Armenia and Azerbaijan. It lies at the heart of a seething, decades-long fight that began during the chaotic breakup of the Soviet Union and that flared up again almost two weeks ago.

Exclusive: Official at Center of Armenia, Azerbaijan Conflict Calls It Fight to Death

  Exclusive: Official at Center of Armenia, Azerbaijan Conflict Calls It Fight to Death "We've been here our whole life, and we are staying here to do what we can. It would be wrong not to worry, but it would be wrong to panic and leave your post," Artsakh representative to the U.S. told Newsweek.For this tiny republic, defeat could mean the end of his internationally unrecognized government, and perhaps worse for its constituents.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed to halt hostilities in the contested Nagorno-Karabakh after marathon talks in Moscow, Russian The breakout of violence was caused by a longstanding dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh – an Armenian -populated region recognized as part of Azerbaijan ’s territory.

Azerbaijan 's president has vowed to fight on until Armenian forces leave disputed territory, on the fourth day of fierce fighting in the region . That we will not accept." Turkey is an ally of Azerbaijan , and even closed its border with Armenia in 1993 in solidarity over the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute .

a person in a dark room: A woman bows her head in prayer before exiting the Holy Mother of God Cathedral in Stepanakert. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times) © (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times) A woman bows her head in prayer before exiting the Holy Mother of God Cathedral in Stepanakert. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Abrahamian, one of the about 150,000 ethnic Armenians who claim the enclave as their own — it’s recognized internationally as part of Azerbaijan — had fought in an earlier iteration of the conflict; now his two sons were at the front line, continuing a generational war that inflects so much of life in this one-time Soviet splinter enclave.

“It’s our destiny. It’s our duty… We will never leave Artsakh,” Abrahamian said, employing the traditional Armenian name for Nagorno-Karabakh.

To walk the streets of Stepanakert is to experience the legacy of that fight, a conflict that has often been described as “frozen,” although “smoldering” is perhaps more accurate: Flower-lined boulevards lead to elegant cafes but also army-surplus stores. A decommissioned tank, a trophy from the 1994 war, keeps a vigil at the entrance to the city. Posters with the stern faces of those fallen adorn the hallways of a school. In one classroom, eighth graders compete over how fast they can assemble and disassemble a Kalashnikov rifle.

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It accused Azerbaijan of carrying out air and artillery attacks on a disputed region , Nagorno-Karabakh, that is The clashes prompted a flurry of diplomacy to prevent a flare-up of a decades -old conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a six-year war over the region until a ceasefire in 1994

Armenia and Azerbaijan have a long record of playing down or ignoring each other’s past traumas, a tendency that has made it all but Describing the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh between Christian Armenia and Muslim Azerbaijan as a “civilizational front line,” Mr. Pashinyan said the dispute “is not

a man standing in front of a building: David Safaryan, 63, looks over the rubble of a destroyed home Oct. 9 after a military strike in a residential neighborhood of Stepanakert. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times) © (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times) David Safaryan, 63, looks over the rubble of a destroyed home Oct. 9 after a military strike in a residential neighborhood of Stepanakert. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

“Twenty-one seconds,” boasted David Safaryan, 63, a decorated, now retired artillery officer when asked about his best time. “But you shouldn’t disassemble a Kalashnikov. You should shoot it.”

Safaryan, a neighbor of Abrahamian whose house suffered light damage in recent days from a bomb falling on a neighborhood flower shop, also has two of his sons as well as two sons-in-law in combat.

The warfare, which began in 1991, saw 30,000 people killed before sputtering to an uneasy cease-fire in 1994. At that point, Armenians were in control of not only Nagorno-Karabakh but also a swath of territory surrounding it, even as more than a million people — including more than 600,000 Azerbaijanis and 300,000 Armenians, according to the figures from the U.N.’s refugee agency — were forced to leave their homes.

Nagorno-Karabakh: Leaders spar over missile attack claims in Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict

  Nagorno-Karabakh: Leaders spar over missile attack claims in Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict The president of the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region warned citizens in large cities of Azerbaijan Sunday to leave to avoid "inevitable loss" after he said Azerbaijan targeted civilians in the region's main city of Stepanakert the last couple of days. © Dmitriy Vinogradov/Sputnik via AP Smoke rises after the recent shelling, in Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh. Nagorno-Karabakh leader Arayik Harutyunyan said on Twitter that "mil objects in large cities of Azerbaijan are the target of the Defense Army of #Artsakh. Calling on Azerbaijani population to leave these cities to avoid inevitable loss.

Tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan flared up over the summer, resulting in casualties numbering in double figures. Unsurprisingly, international support for Armenia and Azerbaijan has mainly come from countries with a vested interest.

Clashes have erupted between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region [Screengrab/Al Jazeera]. 27 Sep 2020. The worst fighting in years has raised the spectre of a new large-scale war between Azerbaijan and Armenia , who have been locked for decades in a territorial

a person standing in front of a window: Karen, 54, who didn't give a last name, inspects the damage from a military strike in a residential building above his home in Stepanakert. Karen served in the last Nagorno-Karabakh war in the 1990s and lost two fingers. Now he has two sons fighting in the current conflict. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times) © (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times) Karen, 54, who didn't give a last name, inspects the damage from a military strike in a residential building above his home in Stepanakert. Karen served in the last Nagorno-Karabakh war in the 1990s and lost two fingers. Now he has two sons fighting in the current conflict. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Since then, world powers involved, including France, Russia and the United States, have failed in efforts to push negotiations forward, while the conflict settled into a steady rhythm of skirmishes followed by impermanent cease-fires.

The clashes are different this time around.

Azerbaijan, backed by muscular support from its longtime ethnic ally in Turkey, has deployed Turkish armed drones, even as it has used its cache of petrodollars to spend billions on armaments from Israel and Russia. (Russia also sells weapons to Armenia, though at a discount.)

Turkey is also reported to have deployed hundreds of Syrian rebels to the front lines in Nagorno-Karabakh, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a watchdog group covering events in Syria. Turkey denies dispatching fighters.

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  Armenia's Prime Minister Accuses Turkey of 'Reinstating the Ottoman Empire' in Sending Mercenaries to Nagorno Karabakh The revival of the 30-year conflict threatens to engulf Armenia and Azerbaijan in all-out warIn fact, the battle already threatens to bleed beyond the mountainous 1700-square mile enclave in the South Caucasus to engulf Azerbaijan and Armenia in all-out war, and risks provoking an even 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 extend his influence in the region.

The dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh has run hot and cold since the 1994 ceasefire -- one of several "frozen conflicts" that blight the post-Soviet world. Yet this weekend's clashes mark a new height in rhetoric and signs of intent.

Armenia and Azerbaijan are set to sign a truce after weeks of heavy fighting over disputed border region that has cost 400 lives. French presidency said the two warring sides are 'moving towards a truce'. Fighting has been raging in Nagorno-Karabakh since a flare up on September 27.

a pile of wood: Destroyed vehicles lie in a pile of wreckage Oct. 10 behind a residential area in the aftermath of a military strike near an electric distribution facility in Stepanakert. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times) © (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times) Destroyed vehicles lie in a pile of wreckage Oct. 10 behind a residential area in the aftermath of a military strike near an electric distribution facility in Stepanakert. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Turkey’s intervention, meanwhile, has spurred remembrance of the Ottoman Empire — precursor to the modern Turkish republic — and its killing of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians beginning in 1915, a slaughter deemed by Armenians and others outside Turkey as a genocide.

The upgraded materiel has given Azerbaijan greater reach, allowing it to strike areas well away from the front line. In recent days, Nagorno-Karabakh’s cities and towns have been subjected to hourlong bouts of shelling.

Population centers have also been hit on the Azerbaijan side, including Ganja, Azerbaijan’s second largest city, according to government officials, who said Armenia had targeted residential areas as well as civilian infrastructure. Since the fighting began Sept. 27, 404 of Nagorno-Karabakh's fighters have been killed, according to its military. Azerbaijan does not give figures on military losses. Dozens of civilians have been wounded and injured on both sides.

The onslaught on Stepanakert has been especially intense.

On Friday, a few hours of relative quiet saw Haik, a 36-year-old uniformed communications expert from Yerevan, go with his team to the site of a large antenna tower which had been peppered with shrapnel.

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“For us there's no difference between Azerbaijan and Turkey. [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan says it’s one nationality, two countries,” Haik said. He refused to give his last name for security reasons.

“But the war is different this time: Now there is no human contact. It's only artillery. It's only shelling.”

Fresh fruit slowly decays in the rubble of a military strike on a residential building in Stepanakert. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times) © (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times) Fresh fruit slowly decays in the rubble of a military strike on a residential building in Stepanakert. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

His words were interrupted by the thud of shells landing nearby, sending a group of journalists and Haik’s team scurrying down the stairs of an old post office building. There, a crew of six repairmen were clearing debris from corridors and stringing up lights to prepare the area as a shelter.

“We’re used to this. We’ve already seen three wars. Now our kids see war too,” said Hamayak Vanyan, 60.

“My son is now fighting too,” said Vanyan’s colleague, a 70-year-old man who gave only his nickname, Milord. Though he was born in Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku, and once had had many Azeri friends, he now sees little chance for peace.

“Every moment since 1988 I'm ready to fight. We can't live together with Azeris more. Maybe we can live in peace, but there will be no communication between us,” he said, before listing the names of sites where Armenians had faced pogroms at the hands of Azeris over the years. “There's too much history already. You can't change that.”

That history has also hampered repeated attempts at a cease-fire.

Early Saturday, after 11 hours of difficult mediation by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov along with his Azerbaijani and Armenian counterparts, a humanitarian truce was announced that would allow the exchange of prisoners and corpses, Lavrov announced.

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  Azerbaijan strikes inside Armenia as Karabakh fighting widens Azerbaijan said Wednesday it destroyed missile launchers inside Armenia that were targeting its cities, an escalation that threatens to further draw regional powers Russia and Turkey into the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. Hundreds have been killed in two weeks of fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces over the disputed region, and continued clashes have rendered almost meaningless a ceasefire agreed in Moscow last week. ArmeniaHundreds have been killed in two weeks of fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces over the disputed region, and continued clashes have rendered almost meaningless a ceasefire agreed in Moscow last week.

The truce was supposed to have taken effect at noon, but the wail of air-raid sirens continued to flood Stepanakert.

a group of people on a rocky beach: A man looks over a crater blast in front of a residential area in Stepanakert. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times) © (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times) A man looks over a crater blast in front of a residential area in Stepanakert. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Armenian Defense Ministry spokeswoman Shushan Stepanyan said Azerbaijan forces had launched an offensive into Nagorno-Karabakh five minutes after the ceasefire was to begin. Azerbaijan authorities accused Armenian forces of bombarding several Azerbaijani regions.

“Where is the cease-fire? The war is going on. They didn’t want to stop it. And because of that we don’t trust Azeris,” said Archbishop Pargev Martyrosyan, the white-haired primate of the Diocese of Artsakh of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

In an interview in his office beside the Holy Mother of God Cathedral, a rose-colored structure overlooking a mountainous view, he spoke of the beauty of the area and how the conflict had stunted its development.

“Our people are suffering. It’s been abnormal for years. But it’s a beautiful country. After the war, many people will come,” he said.

A thud interrupted his sentence.“A bomb. Let’s go,” he said, walking quickly to the cathedral’s basement.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

Nagorno-Karabakh volunteers get weapons as clashes intensify .
MARTUNI, Nagorno-Karabakh (AP) — As the fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces rages on in the separatist territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, its residents are joining volunteer squads to defend their towns. The Ovanisyan family and their neighbors were called Wednesday to receive their Kalashnikov rifles to help protect Martuni, a town close to the front line in the eastern part of the region. “I was summoned to the recruitment office to give me a gun so I can defend my land. I am always ready to fight for the well-being of my children," said Valery Ovanisyan, a 64-year-old Martuni resident.

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