At Least Ten Killed In Karabakh's Worst Fighting In 20 Years
At least eight Azerbaijani soldiers and two Armenian soldiers have been killed in three days of battle, the largest number of fatalities since 1994 when the two sides signed a ceasefire over the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh -- a ceasefire that appears to be growing increasingly untenable.
Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry said that eight of its soldiers had been killed over three days of fighting. According to the Azerbaijani side, "Armenian reconnaissance and sabotage groups attempted to cross contact line along the border line. Azerbaijani Armed Forces defeated all attacks of the enemy. As a result of fights, the Armenians gave casualties and retreated," APA reported. "Defense Ministry reports that the contact line is fully under the control of Azerbaijani servicemen and their blood will be avenged."
Armenia says that Azerbaijan's casualties may have even been greater: an anonymous senior defense ministry official told AFP that Azerbaijan had lost 14 troops in the fighting. "Azerbaijani subversive groups were ambushed," the official said. "As a result, they have 14 dead and lots of wounded. There are no casualties or wounded on the Armenian side." And the Defense Ministry of the de facto Nagorno Karabakh republic said the day before that two of its soldiers were killed as a result of an attempted incursion by Azerbaijan.
The blog CommonSpace.eu said that while there is "atill no clear information about the latest incidents" the number of killed represented "the most serious incident on the line of contact since the cease-fire came into affect in 1994." James Warlick, the United States representative to the OSCE's Minsk Group which is dealing with the conflict, tweeted: "We are seriously concerned about the recent upsurge in violence along the Line Of Contact. The ceasefire needs to be respected."
The fighting may not be a sign of escalation but an attempt by Azerbaijan to get the world's attention, said Armenian analyst Sergey Minasyan in an interview with RIA Novosti. He said Azerbaijan has shown a pattern of provoking events like this in order to get the international community to devote more attention to the conflict. "If the Azerbaijani side thinks that this time the losses were too great and further attempts to escalate tension on the line of conflict would lead to new losses, a greater feeling of the cost of war for official Baku, then I think that there won't be any further escalation. This event absolutely is not a harbinger of war, more likely it's a means of political pressure, to threaten war."
Joshua Kucera, a senior correspondent, is Eurasianet's former Turkey/Caucasus editor and has written for the site since 2007.