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Nagorno-Karabakh Tensions Rise Sharply

Nagorno-Karabakh Tensions Rise Sharply

Wednesday, 14 October, 2020 - 14:15
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan is pictured during an interview with Reuters in Yerevan, Armenia October 13, 2020. Hayk Baghdasaryan/Photolure via REUTERS

Azerbaijan and Armenia exchanged accusations on Wednesday as tensions rose sharply around a fraying ceasefire in the mountain enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.

"Armenia is trying to attack and take control of our pipelines," Azeri 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," he said.

Azerbaijan's defense ministry said separately that it would destroy all military facilities in Armenia that targeted Azeri civilian locations.

The Armenian defense ministry has denied firing on civilian targets, but said it reserved the right to target any military installations and combat movements in Azerbaijan.

It said on Wednesday that the Azeri side had opened fire towards the territory of Armenia and destroyed military equipment.

In a televised speech after Aliyev spoke, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said the situation in the conflict area was "very difficult" and that Azerbaijan and Turkey did not want "to stop their aggression".

Azerbaijan was trying to occupy Nagorno-Karabakh, he said, using similar language to Azeri leaders who say Armenian forces are occupying the territory.

Turkey's military exports to Azerbaijan have risen six-fold this year, with sales of drones and other military equipment rising to $77 million last month alone before fighting broke out over Nagorno-Karabakh, according to exports data.

The figures compiled by the Turkish Exporters' Assembly, which groups more than 95,000 exporting companies in 61 sectors, show Azerbaijan bought $123 million in defense and aviation equipment from Turkey in the first nine months of 2020.

Most of the purchases of drones, rocket launchers, ammunition and other weapons arrived were after July, when border clashes between Armenian and Azeri forces prompted Turkey and Azerbaijan to conduct joint military exercises.

The angry rhetoric between Azerbaijan and Armenia on Wednesday prompted Russia to appeal again for both sides to observe the humanitarian ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh.

But Moscow and Turkey also exchanged recriminations over the fighting that has killed more than 500 people since Sept. 27.

Fears are growing that the two big regional powers could be sucked into a conflict that is being fought close to Azeri pipelines which carry gas and oil to international markets.

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