Death toll of 16 as new tensions flare-up amid Azerbaijan and Armenia

Woman’s house after shelling by Armenian forces in the Tovuz Region Woman’s house after shelling by Armenian forces in the Tovuz Region © Ramil Zeynalov/ AP

In Focus by Gianmarco Italia; Editor: Barbara Caltabiano

On 14 July 2020 , following border clashes between Armenian and Azeri soldiers in Tavush and the district of Tovuz, the death toll reached 16. As authorities from the two sides revealed, at least 12 Azeri, among whom a civilian and four Armenian soldiers were killed. Both parties reported the other using drones to fire towards civilian settlements in what appears to be a widening conflict. Recrudescent violence ignited just one of the many deadly flare-ups of the Azeri-Armenian permanent tension. Indeed, the two neighbour states of South Caucasus have been locked in conflict for 30 years over the sovereignty of Nagorno-Karabakh, a region of Azerbaijan under effective control of ethnic Armenian forces and backed by Armenia since the end of the war for the region in 1994.

Mainly led within the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group, international efforts to settle the dispute are currently in the doldrums. Following minor clashes in 2018, the skirmishes started on 12 July 2020 marks the most serious spike in hostilities since 2016, when tensions flared into conflict along the Line of Contact , separating Armenian and Azeri troops, and devolved into four-days of fighting, resulting in more than 200 soldiers and civilian demises. Fear of escalation deeply preoccupies world observers, since ongoing battles are not unfolding along the border of Nagorno-Karabakh where skirmishes happen routinely but take place on the international border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, where last gruelling clashes occurred in 1990s.

The international community has promptly reacted to prevent further frictions. The UN Secretary-General António Guterres expressed deep concern over the use of heavy artillery on the border. The OSCE and the European Union have called both parties to cease fire. In parallel, Russia has invited the parties to abide by the cease-fire and offered to mediate between the contenders if necessary.


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