Azerbaijan today (Tuesday, 19 September) launched what it described as “anti-terrorist” operations in the Armenian Christian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Defence officials in Nagorno-Karabakh said the Azerbaijani military had “violated the ceasefire along the entire line of contact with missile-artillery strikes”.
Other Karabakh representatives spoke of a “large-scale military offensive”, as air raid sirens were reported sounding in the enclave’s main city Stepanakert.
Armenia’s foreign ministry called on Russian peacekeeping troops in the region to intervene and stop what it said was Azerbaijan’s “full-scale aggression” against the 120,000 Karabakh population.
Since December 2022, Muslim-majority Azerbaijan has besieged Nagorno-Karabakh by blockading the Lachin Corridor, the only route into the enclave from Armenia.
Senior church leaders warned last month that “mass starvation” was likely among the population. Their concern was echoed in an emergency report published on 5 September that stated a new Armenian Genocide “may already be taking place” in the enclave.
Baroness Caroline Cox, an independent member of the UK House of Lords and patron of Barnabas Aid, on a visit to the blockaded entrance to the Lachin Corridor last week, described a “modern day tragedy” unfolding.
“We are in a very sad place,” she said, looking across at a convoy of trucks prevented from delivering much-needed humanitarian aid to Karabakh.
In a letter published in The Guardian newspaper on 18 September, she warned that “grave suffering” was being inflicted on the civilians of Karabakh because of the “brutal blockade” by Azerbaijan.
Thirty thousand children were at risk of “irreversible physical and mental stunting” as a result of severe malnutrition, she warned. The letter can be read here.
The Nagorno-Karabakh region has been populated by Armenians (who accepted Christianity in 301 AD) for at least 2,500 years. Under Soviet rule it was governed as an independent oblast within the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic, and was incorporated into the Republic of Azerbaijan at the dissolution of the USSR.
Azerbaijan and Armenia have gone to war twice over Nagorno-Karabakh, first in the early 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union and again in 2020. During the six-week 2020 conflict Azerbaijan recaptured territory surrounding Karabakh that had been held by Armenia since 1994.