Azerbaijan and Armenia have accused each other of attacking civilian areas and said the death toll was rising from the deadliest fighting in the South Caucasus region for more than 25 years.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg added his voice to calls for an immediate end to the clashes over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountain enclave that belongs to Azerbaijan under international law but is populated and governed by ethnic Armenians.
But prospects for a ceasefire appeared remote after fighting intensified at the weekend, with hundreds killed in clashes involving artillery, tanks and fighter planes since Sept. 27.
Azerbaijan said Azeri cities outside Nagorno-Karabakh had been struck, taking the fighting closer to territory from which pipelines carry Azeri gas and oil to Europe.
In an interview shown on Monday by Turkey’s state broadcaster, Azeri President Ilham Aliyev said Armenia must withdraw its troops from Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding Azeri territories for military action to stop.
“We don’t have eyes on any other country’s lands, but what is ours should be ours,” he said, echoing comments he made in an address to the nation on Sunday.
Aliyev has ignored a ceasefire appeal by the United States, Russia and France, who have led mediation efforts in the intermittent conflict since the 1990s, and said in Monday’s interview that any peacemaking must involve Turkey.
“Turkey must definitely be in any upcoming peace process. A peace process will surely be started. Clashes cannot go on forever, so the sooner the better,” he said.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan showed no sign of backing down. In comments on Facebook on Monday, he called on servicemen demobilised last year to volunteer to fight.
“I want to invite those people and tell them they are … going to fight a war of survival for their fatherland,” he said.
Officials in Nagorno-Karabakh said 21 more servicemen had been killed, bringing its total military death toll to 223 since the fighting began. It also said 19 civilians had been killed.
“Stubborn battles are going on along the contact line between Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan,” Artsrun Hovhannisyan, an Armenian defence ministry official.
The Azeri prosecutor’s office said 25 civilians and been killed and 127 wounded since fighting began. Azerbaijan has not provided details of military casualties.
Azerbaijan says its forces have made gains and President Aliyev has said that his army has “liberated” several villages and heights in the Jabrail region in Nagorno-Karabakh.
The clashes are the worst since the 1990s, when some 30,000 people were killed, and are spreading beyond the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave itself.