Wed. Jan 27th, 2021

By Nelia Bagirova and Niward Hovhanisyan

BAKU / YEREVAN (Reuters) – Azeri President Ilham Aliyev said on Sunday that his troops “will go to the end” negotiations should fail as a result of an agreement by ethnic Armenian forces to withdraw from Nagorno-Karbakh and the seven surrounding areas .

Aliyev, speaking during a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Azeri’s capital Baku, said that Armenia had no basis for requesting Russian military assistance in the conflict.

On Sunday, further fire was carried out by Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces in and around Nagorno-Karabakh. The death toll in the region’s worst fighting in more than 25 years has already exceeded 1,000, and is likely much higher.

Nagorno-Karbakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but is populated and controlled by ethnic Armenians.

The conflict brought Turkey’s increased influence as an ally of Azerbaijan, a region of influence in a former Soviet region considered by Russia. Russia also has a security alliance with Armenia.

Armenian Prime Minister Nicholas Pashinyan has asked Russia to outline the extent of expected support from Moscow.

In response, Russia’s foreign ministry said on Saturday that it should “provide all necessary assistance” that could spread conflict over the “territory of Armenia” – lands outside the current conflict zone.

Aliyev quoted the state news agency Azertag as saying that he wanted to resolve the conflict through negotiations that would result in the withdrawal of ethnic Armenian forces.

“Otherwise,” he said, “we will continue in some way to restore our territorial integrity and … we will go to the end.”

Azerbaijan’s advances on the battlefield since the war began on 27 September have lessened their incentive to strike a permanent peace deal and the broker has been harassed for complex international efforts. Three have failed to hold a truce.

The ethnic Armenian-controlled Nagorno-Karbakh military said the missiles were targeted at Karin Tak and Martuni town of Shushi, just 15 kilometers (9 mi) from the enclave’s largest city, Stefancart.

Armenia’s Ministry of Defense said that another Syrian militant was captured on the battlefield. Azerbaijan has previously denied the presence of foreign fighters.

Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense said that its army units in Tavoz, Gadabe and Gubadli were hit by overnight fire. The bout on Sunday was centered in Aghade, Aghadam, Gubadli and Khajavend – the Azeri name for Martuni.

The Nagorno-Karbakh army says 1,166 of its soldiers have died on September 27, and the Human Rights Ombudsman of Nagorno-Karbakh said the civilian death toll was 45.

Azerbaijan, which does not disclose its military casualties, says 91 civilians have been killed. Russia has estimated more than 5,000 deaths on both sides.

(Reporting by Nelia Bagirova in Baku in Yerevan and Nervard Hovhannisen in Yerevan; Additional reporting by Olges Auzov in Baku and Tom Balmforth in Moscow; Writing by Robin Paxton; Editing by David Evans)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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