At least 30 killed as Armenia and Azerbaijan battle over breakaway region
China, Russia urge restraint; Turkey tells Armenia to halt attacks
Fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan escalated sharply on Monday in and around the mountain territory of Nagorno-Karabakh and at least 30 people were killed in a second day of heavy clashes.
The clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the heaviest since 2016, have rekindled concern over stability in the South Caucasus region, a corridor for pipelines carrying oil and gas to world markets.
The two former Soviet republics have clashed periodically in a decades-long conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a breakaway region that is inside Azerbaijan but is run by ethnic Armenians.
Azerbaijan's president declared a partial military mobilization, and his foreign minister said six Azeri civilians had been killed and 19 injured since the fighting began. Interfax news agency quoted an Armenian defence ministry representative as saying 200 Armenians had been wounded.
Nagorno-Karabakh reported that 28 more of its soldiers had been killed. It had said on Sunday 16 of its servicemen had been killed and more than 100 wounded after Azerbaijan launched an air and artillery attack.
Nagorno-Karabakh also said it had recovered some territory that it had lost control of on Sunday, and said Azerbaijan had been using heavy artillery to shell areas.
The general prosecutor's office in Azerbaijan said two Azeri civilians were killed on Monday, after five civilians were killed on Sunday, and 30 civilians had been wounded.
Interfax news agency quoted the press secretary of Azerbaijan's defence ministry, Anar Evyazov, as saying the Azeri military occupied several strategically important heights near the village of Talish in Karabakh.
"Missile, artillery and air strikes are being applied to the enemy's positions, which forces the enemy to surrender the held positions," he said, adding that several important strategic heights around Talish village had been taken.
China and Russia urged both sides to show restraint.
The clashes have spurred a flurry of diplomacy to defuse the reignited tensions between majority Christian Armenia and mainly Muslim Azerbaijan. Russia called for an immediate ceasefire and another regional power, Turkey, said it would support Azerbaijan, its traditional ally.
"Armenia must immediately halt its attacks, send back the mercenaries and terrorists it brought from abroad and withdraw from the Azerbaijan lands," said Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, adding a ceasefire and peace are needed.
Armenia's ambassador to Russia said on Monday Turkey had sent around 4,000 fighters from northern Syria to Azerbaijan, Interfax news agency reported, an accusation denied by Baku.
Under international law, Nagorno-Karabakh is recognized as part of Azerbaijan. But the ethnic Armenians who make up the vast majority of the population reject Azeri rule.
They have run their own affairs, with support from Armenia, since Nagorno-Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan in a conflict that erupted as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
Although a ceasefire was reached in 1994, after thousands of people were killed and many more displaced, Azerbaijan and Armenia frequently accuse each other of attacks around Nagorno-Karabakh and along the separate Azeri-Armenian frontier.
Pipelines shipping Caspian oil and natural gas from Azerbaijan to the world pass close to Nagorno-Karabakh.