Monday, September 28, 2020

Azerbaijan-Armenia War 2020

 


A still image from a video released by the Armenian Defense Ministry shows what is said to be Azerbaijani tanks and service members during at attack in Nagorno-Karabakh, on September 27, 2020. (Via Reuters)

Source: Press TV

VIDEO: War Between Azerbaijan & Armenia

Heavy fighting continues in the South Caucasus region of Nagorno-Karabakh, a day after a decades-long territorial dispute re-erupted with the heaviest clashes in years between Azerbaijan’s military and Armenian-backed forces.


Fighting was reported throughout the night into early Monday morning, with both sides deploying heavy artillery.

The latest flare-up of violence has resulted in scores of fatalities and hundreds of injuries on both sides.

Azerbaijan's foreign minister said on Monday that six Azeri civilians had lost their lives in the latest bout of fighting.

The Azerbaijani Prosecutor General's Office reported that "as many as 26 civilians have been hospitalized with various bodily injuries."

An Armenian defense ministry spokesperson said 15 more separatist forces in the Nagorno-Karabakh region had been killed overnight, bringing their total fatality count to 32 since clashes erupted Sunday.

Also speaking on Monday, Armenian Ambassador to Russia Vardan Toganyan confirmed that around 30 Armenian servicemen had been killed and 100 others injured in the clashes.

An Armenian Defense Ministry representative, meanwhile, put the number of wounded Armenians at 200.

Both sides have accused each other of sustained artillery shelling.

Azerbaijan's Ministry of Defense said the Armenian-backed forces had shelled the city of Terter overnight, adding Azeri forces had attacked in retaliation, destroying at least two Armenian tanks.

Armenia also said Azerbaijan had kept targeting the region with artillery fire.

Sputnik reported on Monday that Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev had signed a decree authorizing partial mobilization of reserve servicemen.

Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh declared martial law and general mobilization on Sunday.

Oil Pipe Lines

World Countries React

The fresh escalation has concerned the international community and prompted calls for calm in the region.

The European Union asked all sides in the Karabakh conflict to prevent another war and avoid foreign interference.

EU Spokesman Peter Stano said Monday, "We urge everyone to do everything they can in order to prevent an all-out war from breaking out," because the escalation could endanger regional stability.

Likewise, the German government called for an immediate end to combat.

"The government sees the escalation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict as a very dangerous development. We call on both sides to immediately cease fire and resume negotiations. There is a special platform for this purpose, the OSCE Minsk group," cabinet spokesman Steffen Seibert said.

On Monday, Russia's Foreign Ministry called on all sides to show restraint.

China’s Foreign Ministry also called for restraint on Monday, saying that Beijing hoped Yerevan and Baku could resolve their differences through dialog. Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said that maintaining regional peace and stability was in the interests of all parties.

Turkey and Russia were quick to react to the violence on Sunday, calling on both sides to cease fire and start negotiations.

Turkey, an Azerbaijan ally, accused Armenia of the flare-up and promised Azerbaijan its “full support.” 

VIDEO:(Turkish Backed Syrian Militants to Participate in Azerbaijani Armenian Conflict)

Russia, on the other hand, which maintains close ties with Armenia, called for “an end to hostilities.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed serious concern over the resumption of large-scale clashes and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he was holding talks with his Turkish counterpart to encourage a return to negotiations.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the meantime, spoke to his Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliyev.

Erdogan called Armenia “the biggest threat to peace in the region" and urged “the entire world to stand with Azerbaijan in their battle against invasion and cruelty.”

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan hit back, accusing Ankara of “dangerous behavior” and pleading for the international community to prevent Ankara's involvement in the conflict.

Iran was also one of the first countries to react to regional conflict, inviting the two sides to immediately end the fighting. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeid Khatibzadeh said Tehran was fully prepared to mediate the resumption of talks between the conflicting sides.

“Iran is closely monitoring the conflict with concern and calls for an immediate end to the escalation and the start of talks between the two countries,” Khatibzadeh said.

French President Emmanuel Macron also talked with his Azerbaijani counterpart over the phone during which he stressed the importance of resolving the conflict through negotiations.

US President Donald Trump also reacted to the fighting, saying that his administration would seek to stop the violence through its “good relationships” in the region.

His State Department also condemned the violence in a statement, calling on both Baku and Yerevan to halt the violence, as well as any rhetoric or other actions that could worsen tensions.

The statement said any participation in the escalating violence by outside parties would be “deeply unhelpful.”

Expressing concern over the escalation, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also urged both Baku and Yerevan to stop fighting and return to talks.

Pope Francis, the European Union (EU) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to stop military actions and return to the negotiating table.

Armenian separatists seized Karabakh in a move supported by Yerevan after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992.

Some 30,000 people were killed in the conflict that ensued, which ended with a fragile ceasefire in 1994, with about 20 percent of Azerbaijani territory remaining under the control of Armenian forces.

The latest clashes follow a flare-up along the two counties’ border in July, which claimed the lives of 17 soldiers from both sides. In April 2016, some 110 people were killed in the most serious fighting in years.

While Azerbaijan has promised to take back the area, by the use of force if necessary, Armenia says it will do all it can to defend the territory.

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Armenia claims Azerbaijani artillery attacks are intensifying


Azeri artillery firing on Nagorno-Karabakh, in still image from video released by Azerbaijan's Defence Ministry, September 28, 2020. ©  Handout via REUTERS

Source: RT News

Fighting between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh intensified, on Monday, with heavy civilian and military casualties reported amid disputed claims of an Azeri warplane being shot down.

Azerbaijani troops and forces from Nagorno-Karabakh have been trading artillery and rocket fire, with the population of much of Karabakh told to seek shelter. Meanwhile, Armenia has declared a general mobilization and barred men between the ages of 18 and 55 from leaving the country, except with the approval of military authorities.

The most intense attacks took place in the Aras river valley, near the border with Iran, and the Matagis-Talish front in the northeast of the region, according to Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman Artsrun Hovhannisyan. He claimed that the Azeri side has lost 22 tanks and a dozen other vehicles, along with 370 dead and many wounded.

Artur Sargsyan, deputy commander of the Nagorno-Karabakh military, said their own losses so far have amounted to 84 dead and more than 200 wounded. Both figures should be understood in the context of an ongoing information war run by the belligerents.

Vagram Pogosyan, spokesman for the president of the self-declared Artsakh Republic – the ethnic Armenian de-facto government in the capital Stepanakert – said their forces shot down an Azeri An-2 airplane outside the town of Martuni on Monday. This is in addition to some three dozen drones, including ones provided by Turkey, that the Armenian forces claim to  have shot down over the past 48 hours.

Baku has denied the reports, saying only that two civilians were killed on Monday, in addition to five on Sunday, and 30 were injured. There was no official information on military casualties. Reports concerning the downed airplane were rejected as “not corresponding to reality.”

Azeri forces have taken several strategically important locations near the village of Talish in Nagorno-Karabakh, Colonel Anar Eyvazov, spokesman for the Defense Ministry in Baku, said in a statement. He was also quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying that Lernik Vardanyan, an Armenian airborne commander, was killed near Talish. Armenia has denied this and labelled it “disinformation.”

In a video conference on Monday, Azeri President Ilham Aliyev told UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres that the question of Nagorno-Karabakh should be resolved in line with UN Security Council resolutions guaranteeing the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, and called for the urgent withdrawal of Armenian troops from “occupied territories.”

The current Azeri offensive is backed by Turkey, whose President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called Armenia “the biggest threat” to peace in the region and called for it to end the “occupation” of Azeri land.

“Recent developments have given all influential regional countries an opportunity to put in place realistic and fair solutions,” he said in Istanbul on Monday.

Unconfirmed reports that Turkish-backed militants from northern Syria have been transported to Azerbaijan to fight the Armenians have been denied by Baku as “complete nonsense.” They amount to “another provocation from the Armenian side,” Khikmet Gadzhiev, an aide to President Aliyev, told Al Jazeera.

Meanwhile, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan vowed his people “won't retreat a single millimeter from defending our people and our Artsakh.” All Armenians “must unite to defend our history, our homeland, identity, our future and our present,” Pashinyan tweeted on Sunday from Yerevan.

Nagorno-Karabakh is one of several border disputes left over from the collapse of the Soviet Union. An enclave predominantly populated by Armenians, it seceded from Azerbaijan in 1988 and declared itself the Republic of Artsakh following a bitter war in 1992-94.

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Azerbaijan Armenia conflict a new threat to Russia's delicate balancing act with Turkey


FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan arrive for a news conference following their talks in Moscow, Russia March 5, 2020. © Pool via REUTERS/Pavel Golovkin

Source: RT News

By Paul Robinson, a professor at the University of Ottawa. He writes about Russian and Soviet history, military history, and military ethics.

Azerbaijan has never forgotten its 1990s humiliation at the hands of Armenia. Now stronger than its sworn enemy, and emboldened by Turkish support, Baku’s assertiveness is creating a headache for Moscow.

Russian president Vladimir Putin once complained that communist leader Vladimir Lenin had placed a ‘time bomb’ under Russia. He had in mind the introduction of the federal principle after Lenin’s Bolsheviks took power in 1917. Lenin gave national minorities their own republics within the Soviet Union. In so doing, he created a situation which allowed those republics to secede from the Union once communist power collapsed.

Soviet federalism brought other problems. The communists granted autonomy to the larger nationalities in the form of 15 ‘republics.’ Smaller nationalities also got autonomy, but of a different form – so-called ‘autonomous republics’ and ‘autonomous regions.’ When the union fell apart, fully-fledged republics got independence, but the autonomous republics and regions within them did not.

Unsurprisingly, many of the smaller minorities were not too happy with this somewhat arbitrary outcome, and attempted to secede from the seceding republics. The result was several wars, the first of which took place in the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region, an Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan, after it attempted to secede from Azerbaijan and join with Armenia. The war ended in an Armenian victory. Not only did the Armenians drive the Azeris out of Nagorno-Karabakh, but they also captured a swath of Azeri territory linking Armenia with the breakaway region.

Nagorno-Karabakh became a de-facto independent state, albeit one recognized by nobody and entirely dependent on Armenian support. Azerbaijan, meanwhile, has never abandoned its claim to its lost province nor to the territories seized by Armenia. The result has been occasional military clashes between Yerevan and Baku over the past 30 years.

This weekend, violence once again flared up on the front lines between the Armenian and Azeri forces. The Armenian government announced that it had repulsed an enemy offensive and issued a video showing the destruction of several items of Azeri military equipment. The Azeri government, in turn, accused Armenia of attacking it, and declared that it had launched its own counter-offensive in which it had ‘liberated’ several villages. Armenia has now mobilized its army. Many fear the outbreak of all-out war.

One explanation for the recent flare-up may be that Azerbaijan feels much stronger than it did when it suffered its defeat at the hands of Armenia 30 years ago. The Azeri economy, benefitting from substantial oil reserves, has outgrown that of its neighbor, as has the Azeri population – there are 10 million Azeris compared with only three million Armenians. Azerbaijan has invested heavily in its military and may feel much more confident about its prospects should matters escalate further.

Another explanation may be the support Azerbaijan is receiving from its primary ally – Turkey. Following this weekend’s clashes, Turkish president Recep Erdogan called on ‘the entire world to stand with Azerbaijan in its battle against invasion.’ Such Turkish support may embolden the Azeri leadership not to back down if things begin to get out of hand.

Russia has officially adopted a position of neutrality in the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, and called on all sides to settle their differences peacefully. This has meant supporting the status quo. Since that status quo favours Armenia, in reality this position has meant supporting Armenia, a posture reinforced by Armenia’s membership of various multilateral initiatives sponsored by Russia, notably the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Eurasian Economic Union.

The conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh thus indirectly pits Russia against Turkey. It also undermines a common narrative that claims that Russia seeks to undermine democracy and promote authoritarian forms of government. After all, Russia’s ally Armenia is a democracy whereas Turkey’s ally, Azerbaijan, is not.

Nagorno-Karabakh is not the only location where Russian and Turkish proxies are clashing. In Syria, Russia has been backing the government of Bashar Assad while Turkey has been propping up the anti-Assad rebels in Idlib province. And in Libya, Russia is said to support rebel general Khalifa Haftar, while Turkey recently sent substantial aid to the government forces in Tripoli to help drive Haftar’s troops away from the capital.

Russia has good reasons, therefore, to regard Turkey as a spoiler, undermining Russian influence in the Caucasus, Middle East, and North Africa. But Russia isn’t the only state that Turkey has irritated in recent years. Turkey currently has poor relations with fellow NATO members, and this provides an opportunity which Russia can exploit for its own advantage. Economic opportunities also beckon in Turkey, as seen by the recent Turkish decision to purchase Russian-made S-400 air-defense missiles.

Consequently, whenever Russia and Turkey have clashed in recent years, the Russian government has sought to rapidly calm things down. Unsurprisingly, it is now taking the same approach regarding the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. On the one hand, Russia needs to stand by its Armenian ally. On the other hand, it wishes to avoid an escalation which would bring it into conflict with Turkey. A restoration of the ceasefire and the status-quo ante thus serves it best. Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs therefore issued a statement declaring that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was “intensively conducting talks to induce the parties to immediately cease firing and start negotiations to stabilize the situation.”

For now, this approach may work. In the longer term, though, economic and demographic considerations mean that power in the Southern Caucasus will likely continue to shift in Azerbaijan’s favor. As it does, Russia’s balancing act vis-à-vis Turkey could become increasingly difficult to maintain.

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Update: 2020 Sept 29

Azerbaijan-Armenian War - Turkish F-16s Enter the Game

Source: SouthFront

The Armenian-Azerbaijani war continues raging in the South Caucasus.

As of September 29, the Azerbaijani advance in the Nagorno-Karabakh region struck the Armenian defense and Azerbaijani forces were not able to achieve any military breakthroughs. Armenian troops withdrew from several positions in the Talish area and east of Fuzuli.

The Azerbaijani military has been successfully employing combat drones and artillery to destroy positions and military equipment of Armenia, but Azerbaijani mechanized infantry was unable to develop its momentum any further.

While both sides claim that they eliminated multiple enemy fighters and made notable gains, the real situation on the ground remains more or less stable with minor gains achieved by Azerbaijani troops. Armenian sources say that 370 Azerbaijani troops were killed and over 1,000 injured. The number of killed Armenian fighters, according to Azerbaijani sources, is over 1,000. Armenian sources also note the notable role of Turkey in the developing conflict.

Armenian President Armen Sarkissian said that Turkey has been assisting Azerbaijan in its war against the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic with advisers, mercenaries and even F-16 fighter jets. He added that the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is still possible through dialogue. However, the President emphasized that the Armenian nation cannot allow a return to the past.

“105 years ago, the Ottoman Empire carried out the genocide of the Armenians. In no case can we allow this genocide to be repeated,” Sarkissian said.

Armenia threatens to use Iskander short-range ballistic missile systems obtained from Russia against Azerbaijani targets if Turkish F-16 warplanes are employed on the battlefield.

Meanwhile, Armenian Ambassador to Russia Vardan Toganyan said that members of Turkish-backed Syrian militant groups have been already participating in the conflict. He said that recently about 4,000 Turkish-backed militants were deployed to Azerbaijan. In turn, the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan said that “people who have arrived from Syria and other countries of the Middle East” are fighting on the side of Armenia. Earlier, pro-Turkish sources claimed that Armenia was transporting fighters from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. Thus, the sides are not only claiming that they are gaining an upper hand in the war, but also accuse each other of using foreign mercenaries and terrorists.

On the evening of September 28, the Defense Ministry of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic confirmed that 84 of its troops were killed in the recent escalation. The Armenian side also claimed that its forces had shot down an Azerbaijani aircraft. However, this claim was denied by the Azerbaijani military. Baku continues insisting that all Armenian claims about the Azerbaijani casualties in the war are fake news.

On September 29, the Armenian side continued reporting about Azerbaijani helicopters being shot down, and declaring that they repelled Azerbaijani attacks. Nonetheless, the scale and intensity of the strikes by the Azerbaijani side did not demonstrate any decrease. On top of this, the Armenian Defense Ministry said that a Turkish Air Force F-16 fighter jet shot down an Armenian Su-25 warplane. The F-16 fighter jet allegedly took off from the Ganja Airbase in Azerbaijan and was providing air cover to combat UAVs, which were striking targets in Armenia’s Vardenis, Mec Marik and Sotk. Azerbaijan and Turkey denied Armenian claims that a Turkish F-16 shot down the Su-25.

So far, no side has achieved a strategic advantage in the ongoing conflict. However, the Azerbaijani military, which receives extensive support from Turkey, is expected to have better chances in the prolonged conflict with Armenia, if Erevan does not receive direct military support from Russia.


Saturday, September 26, 2020

3,500 US companies join Tesla to challenge Trump’s trade war tariffs on China

 


© Getty Images / narvikk

Source: RT News

Lawsuits against the Trump administration have piled up over the last fortnight as some 3,500 American firms, including auto majors, retailers and pharmacies, were reported to challenge US tariffs on billions of Chinese goods.

The suits, filed by a wide range of companies in the US Court of International Trade in New York, seek to declare unlawful the latest rounds of levies on Chinese products imposed by Washington amid a wider trade dispute with Beijing. According to a Reuters report citing the filings, they name the US trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, and the Customs and Border Protection agency as defendants.

Some of the companies accuse the Trump administration of waging an “unbounded and unlimited trade war impacting billions of dollars in goods imported from the People's Republic of China by importers in the United States,” while others point at officials’ failure to comply with administrative procedures and impose tariffs within a required one-year period.

Many industry leaders and some of the biggest US corporations included on the S&P 500 index are now challenging the tariffs. In addition to electric carmaker Tesla, which is seeking a cancellation of tariffs along with a refund for duties already paid, other big-name producers such as Ford, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo are suing the US government. The long list of plaintiffs, totaling around 3,500 according to Reuters, also includes the operator of major US pharmacy store chain Walgreen, retail firms from various spheres such as Pep Boys, Home Depot and Target Corporation, as well as clothing company Ralph Lauren and guitar manufacturer Gibson Brands among others.

The world's two largest economies – the US and China – have been locked in a simmering trade dispute since 2018. While the two sides finally came to a partial truce at the end of last year, known as a phase-one deal, the bulk of Chinese imports are still subject to tariffs. According to the deal, Chinese goods worth around $250 billion remained under 25-percent tariffs, while a 7.5-percent levy was kept for around $120 billion of imports.

Lawsuits challenging the US’ tariff policy came shortly after the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruled last week that Washington’s trade war with Beijing breached the body’s rules, meaning that the multi-billion dollar duties are essentially illegal. The Trump administration was quick to accuse the body of being “completely inadequate to stop China’s harmful technology practices.”


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