Azerbaijan announced Tuesday that “anti-terrorist operations” had begun against Armenia, nearly three years after both countries went to war over the disputed mountainous area in Nagorno-Karabakh.
The announcement came after months of mounting tensions between the Caucasus foes and hours after Baku said six Azerbaijanis were killed by mine explosions in Karabakh, blaming Armenian separatists.
“Localised anti-terrorist measures have been launched in the region,” Baku´s defence ministry said, adding it was using “high precision weapons on the front line and in depth as part of the operations.”
Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in a decades-long conflict over Karabakh, going to war in the 1990s and in 2020, AFP reported.
The breakaway region populated mainly by Armenians is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan.
Baku has cited “systemic shelling” of Azerbaijani positions by Armenian separatists in Karabakh as well as “the continuing mining of our territories” and accused Yerevan of a troop build-up.
It said it had “repeatedly warned” of what it called violations of a Russian-brokered ceasefire that ended a 2020 war between the neighbours, calling them “a serious source of threat for peace and stability in the region.”
Baku said it wanted to “suppress large-scale provocations” in Karabakh. Its aims also included the “disarmament and withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from our territories” and “the safety of the civilian population” returning to territories it reclaimed in 2020.
Hours earlier, Baku said four policemen and two civilians were killed in mine explosions staged by “Armenian separatist groups.”
Blasts were heard Tuesday in the Armenian separatist stronghold of Stepanakert in the breakaway region, an AFP reporter said.
“Mass shelling has started here,” Ruen Vardanyan, a former state minister of Karabakh said on Telegram.
Baku said it had informed Russia and Turkey about military activities it was carrying out in Karabakh.
In a six-week war in 2020, Azerbaijan regained control of pockets of Karabakh with fighting ending with a Russian-brokered peace deal.