EU warns against outside interference in the Caucasus

File photo. Ultra-nationalist Azerbaijani and Turkish people hold their national flags as they shout slogans against Armenia in front of the Istanbul University in Istanbul, Turkey, 19 July 2020. [Sedat Suna/EPA/EFE]

The European Union warned regional powers on Monday (28 September) to stay away from renewed fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh and condemned what it said was a “serious escalation” that may have “serious consequences for regional stability”.

Answering a question by EURACTIV, foreign policy spokesman Peter Stano said Brussels cannot confirm reports of outside forces joining the conflict but added: “No external interference in this conflict is acceptable.”

Azerbaijani and Armenian forces were battling for a second day on Monday after dozens were killed in an outbreak of heavy fighting. Azeri sources mentioned 500 Armenian troops killed, while Yerevan said its forces had killed 200 members of Azerbaijan’s army.

Fighting erupted on Sunday along the frontlines of Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory legally belonging to Azerbaijan but de facto controlled by Armenia. The so-called Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh is not recognised internationally.

“No one should be interested and no one is going to profit from an all-out war breaking out and this is something we want to prevent,” Stano said.

Turkey and Pakistan have expressed strong support for Azerbaijan, while Armenia counts on its Russian ally. Although there is no ground for a ‘civilisational conflict’ between the two former Soviet republics, there is a risk that international extremists could try to turn this into a ‘holy war’ in the Caucasus, on European territory.

“We are calling as the EU, as the international community, on all the actors involved to stop immediately and on all the other actors in the region to contribute to stopping the confrontations,” Stano said and added:

“The escalation… is very worrying because it carries the risk of serious, serious escalation and serious consequences for regional stability. We called for an immediate ceasefire, a cessation of hostilities, de-escalation and strict observance of the ceasefire”.

Although predominantly Muslim, Azerbaijan is largely a secular country, which has deployed a lot of efforts to counter foreign attempts of importing Jihad.

While it can be argued that the current military escalation may or may not qualify to be called “war”, the real war is raging on social media, with some videos suggesting that jihadists are, somewhat surprisingly, joining the Armenian ranks.

Azerbaijan has been warning for months now that Armenia is trying to populate the occupied territories of Nagorno-Karabakh with people from Lebanon and other countries.

Stano said it was difficult to verify such reports from Brussels.

Creating a new demographic situation in Nagorno-Karabakh is detrimental

Armenia’s illegal settlements in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan further complicate the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process, writes Vasif Huseynov.

 

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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