Fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan continued for a second day, albeit at a lower intensity, as Armenia rushed to seek international support against Azerbaijani attacks.
“Today, starting at 8:00, the enemy renewed its aggressive acts by using artillery and high-caliber weaponry,” Armenia’s Ministry of Defense said in a September 14 statement. “The Armenian armed forces are taking adequate retaliatory measures, continuing to fully fulfill their military duties.” By 12:00 the intensity of the attacks had “significantly weakened,” it said. By the evening, the ministry reported that the situation on the border “remained tense.”
Azerbaijan continued to accuse Armenia of provoking the attacks, and to argue that it was the side taking retaliatory measures. “We declare once again that the military-political leadership of Armenia bears the entire responsibility for the aggravation of the situation,” it said in a statement. “The Azerbaijan Army takes local retaliatory measures only against firing points, which are legitimate military targets.”
Armenia has reported a total of 105 service members killed in the fighting; Azerbaijan said 50 of its own soldiers were killed. Neither side has reported any civilians killed in the fighting.
Armenia reported that Azerbaijan had captured an additional 10 square kilometers of Armenian territory in the fighting. (It had reported 41 square meters being occupied during a previous Azerbaijani incursion last year.) More than 2,500 civilians had been displaced from border communities as a result of the violence, Armenian officials said.
The escalation is the heaviest fighting between the two sides since the 44-day war they fought in 2020. It is the first time that Azerbaijan has struck targets in large numbers inside Armenian territory; most fighting between the two sides has previously taken place in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, internationally recognized as Azerbaijani territory
It remains unclear what Baku seeks to achieve strategically by expanding its theater of operations, but previous escalations generally have been aimed at forcing Armenia into diplomatic concessions. The two sides have been engaged in negotiations over a final resolution of their long-running conflict, and earlier this month reported that they had started working on preparations for a peace deal.
In a speech to parliament in the afternoon, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan made perhaps his most explicit allusion yet to the possibility that Armenia may formally cede control of Nagorno-Karabakh, the territory at the root of the conflict between the two sides.
“We want to sign a paper, as a result of which we will be criticized, scolded, called traitors, even the people may decide to remove us from power. But we will be grateful if as a result of this Armenia receives lasting peace and security on an area of 29,800 square kilometers,” he said. “I made a clear decision, I don’t care what happens to me. I care what happens to the Republic of Armenia.”
While Azerbaijan’s military objectives remain unclear, Armenia sought to rally international support to stanch the fighting.
Pashinyan invoked the collective defense provision of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the mutual defense pact led by Russia, seeking “military aid for restoring the territorial integrity of the country.” The CSTO said it would send a fact-finding mission to Armenia on September 15 “to assess the current situation in various regions on the border of Armenia and Azerbaijan and to prepare a detailed report for the heads of the member states of the organization.” The mission would be headed by the CSTO’s chief of general staff, the general secretary would arrive “next week,” the organization said in a statement.
But Russia is in the midst of heavy military losses of its own – no doubt a factor in Azerbaijan’s decision to launch the offensive when it did – and Armenian officials suggested that they did not expect military aid from Moscow.
While Armenian officials said they hoped to bring up the issue to the United Nations Security Council, a UN official said it was “too soon” to discuss that possibility.
The United States, too, appeared unlikely to do much to affect the outcome of events. A senior American diplomat arrived in Baku the day the offensive started and on September 14 met with Azerbaijan Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov. The diplomat, Philip Reeker, was recently named the State Department’s Senior Advisor for Caucasus Negotiations, as well as the U.S.’s new representative at the Minsk Group, a body Azerbaijani officials have repeatedly referred to as “dead.” Reeker’s appointment, an apparent sign of American interest in reviving the group, was openly opposed by Baku.
Ani Mejlumyan contributed research to this article.