Azerbaijan yesterday accused Armenia of trying to attack its gas and oil pipelines, and warned of a “severe” response, as tensions mounted over a fraying ceasefire in the mountain enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Armenia has denied targeting Azerbaijan’s pipelines, which supply world markets with oil and gas, but concern is growing over the failure of a ceasefire to end the worst fighting in decades over the tiny territory in the South Caucasus.
More than 500 people have been killed since the fighting broke out on Sept. 27 in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but is governed and populated by ethnic Armenians.
The violence, which continued yesterday, has raised fears that big regional powers Turkey and Russia could be sucked into the conflict.
“Armenia is trying to attack and take control of our pipelines,” Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said in an interview with Turkish broadcaster Haberturk. “If Armenia tries to take control of the pipelines there, I can say that the outcome will be severe for them.”
The Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense said separately that it would destroy all military facilities in Armenia that targeted civilian locations in Azerbaijan.
The Armenian Ministry of Defense denied firing on civilian targets, but said that it reserved the right to target any military installations and combat movements in Azerbaijan.
Armenia and Azerbaijan yesterday accused each other of new breaches of the ceasefire, which was meant to allow the sides to swap prisoners and bodies of those killed, but the continued fighting has hindered those efforts.
Armenia accused Azerbaijani forces of launching artillery and rocket attacks in several areas. It said that its forces had shot down an Azerbaijani Su-25 jet, but Azerbaijan denied the claim.
Azerbaijan accused Armenian forces of new attacks on army positions along the line of contact that divides the two sides, and said that the Terter, Aghdam and Aghjabedi regions were under artillery fire.
The Azerbaijani Prosecutor’s Office reported one new civilian death and several wounded, including journalists.
Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu spoke to the Azerbaijani and Armenian defense ministers by telephone, urging the two former Soviet republics to observe the ceasefire.
Tension has been growing between Russia, which has a defense pact with Armenia, and Turkey, an ally of Azerbaijan. Moscow has been particularly alarmed by Turkey and Azerbaijan suggesting that the conflict could be resolved militarily.
“It is not a secret that we cannot agree with a statement that a military solution to the conflict is permissible,” Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov told local radio stations.
Lavrov said that it would be possible to deploy Russian military observers on the line of contact that divides the sides in Nagorno-Karabakh, but that it was up to Azerbaijan and Armenia to decide.
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