Dozens of soldiers have been killed in the latest clashes on the border between neighboring Armenia and Azerbaijan. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said 49 of his soldiers were killed in fighting overnight on Monday. The Azerbaijan Ministry of Defense, for its part, counted 50 casualties among its troops. Both countries have fought two wars and engaged in frequent clashes over the last three decades.

Russia claims to have brokered a ceasefire in this latest episode, but Armenia argues that the fighting simply died down rather than ended entirely. At the heart of the dispute is the Nagorno-Karabakh region. According to recognized international borders, this region is part of Azerbaijan, although it is inhabited by Armenians.

This cultural divide is also political and religious. Armenia is a country with a Christian majority, while Azerbaijan has a Muslim majority.

The dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh has led to two full-scale wars in the 1980s and 1990s and a shorter six-week war between September and November 2020.

Nagorno-Karabakh War

The two countries hold each other responsible in this latest outbreak of violence. Armenia claims that several border towns have been bombed by its neighbor and that it has responded to the provocation. Azerbaijan, for its part, says its military positions were hit first. The violence continued into Monday night, before Moscow said it had brokered a swift ceasefire that went into effect Tuesday morning.

However, Pashinyan says that the “intensity of hostilities has decreased, but Azerbaijani attacks continue on one or two fronts.” It is understood that Azerbaijan has also suffered casualties, but has not yet released any statement on the number of wounded and dead.

The clashes have been internationally condemned. The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, expressing that “there can be no military solution to the conflict.” Russia, an ally of Armenia, says the current dispute “must be resolved exclusively through diplomatic and political means.” Turkey has ties to Azerbaijan and has apparently backed its version of events.

“Armenia should stop its provocations and focus on peace negotiations,” said Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister. Monday night’s fighting is believed to be the worst since the 2020 conflict, in which thousands of people were killed. That war ended with a Russian-brokered deal, in which Armenia withdrew its troops from the occupied areas around Nagorno-Karabakh. A Russian peacekeeping force of almost 2,000 troops remains in the area, deployed in 2020 as part of those negotiations.

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