France, Germany react to Azerbaijan's attack, US likely to be engaged in diplomatic efforts
A day after an International Red Cross delivery via the Lachin road into Armenian-populated Nagorno-Karabakh -under Azerbaijan's blockade for 10 months- seemed to bolster some optimism for peace in the region, that was shattered today by a major military offensive launched by Baku.
Azerbaijan demanded the surrender of the Armenian-populated enclave as Azerbaijani artillery started shelling positions across the area. Baku said in a statement:
"For the anti terror measures to stop, the illegal Armenian military formations must raise the white flag, all the weapons must be handed over, and the illegal regime must be dissolved."
Armenian human rights official Gegham Stepanyan in Nagorno-Karabakh said Tuesday evening that 25 people have been killed as a result of Azerbaijan's military offensive. According to Stepanyan, two of the victims were civilians.
The authorities of Nagorno-Karabakh earlier said in a social media post that five people were killed and 80 injured. Fifteen among the injured were civilians, the Karabakh information center said.
France: Unjustified military operation by Azerbaijan
Baku's move sparked international reaction.
France said on Tuesday it was working with its partners to respond strongly after what it said was an unjustified military operation launched by Azerbaijan on Nagorno-Karabakh.
"France calls on Azerbaijan to immediately cease its offensive and return to respect for international law," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
"It will hold Azerbaijan solely responsible for the fate of the civilian populations of Nagorno-Karabakh."
It called for the United Nations Security Council to convene urgently to discuss the issue.
"It (France) is working closely with its European and American partners so that a strong response is provided to this unacceptable offensive, commensurate with the risks it poses to the security of the region," the ministry added.
Germany: Azerbaijan broke its promise
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Azerbaijan broke its promise not to resort to military action on Nagorno-Karabakh and urged Baku stop shelling and return to the negotiating table.
"Baku's promise to refrain from military action was broken. Azerbaijan must immediately stop shelling and return to the negotiating table," Baerbock said on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City.
US: Blinken likely to get involved in diplomatic engagement
A senior US State Department official was cited by Reuters that Washington is engaging in diplomatic outreach after Azerbaijan's operation.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was likely to get involved in the next 24 hours in the diplomatic engagement already under way on the tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the official said.
A second senior State Department official said the incident overnight was "particularly egregious and particularly dangerous, so we'll obviously be in touch with all sides."
Armenia's Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Blinken discussed the situation and stated the need for de-escalation, Interfax reported, citing the Armenian government.
Kremlin: Our priority is to ensure safety of Karabakh's civilians
The Kremlin called for calm in Nagorno-Karabakh region, saying that both Baku and Yerevan should sit down to talks to resolve the conflict.
"We are concerned about the sharp escalation of tension and the beginning of hostilities," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
"The first thing for us, against the background of the military operation carried out by the Azerbaijani Armed Forces, is to ensure the safety of the civilian population of Karabakh."
Peskov said the Russian military had been in contact with both Baku and Azerbaijan and that Moscow was urging talks.
"Our military is working to return the settlement process to the political and diplomatic path," Peskov added.
Photo: Photo, taken from video published 19 September 2023, shows firing on alleged Armenian position (Azerbaijan's Ministry of Defence / Handout via Reuters)