Geneva hosts an international meeting to mediate in the conflict, and...

                The Swiss city of Geneva is hosting the first international mediation summit to discuss the conflict in the separatist Nagorno Karabakh region between pro-Armenian forces and Azerbaijani forces since September 27.  Azerbaijan stated that its foreign minister will meet with leaders of the Minsk group, which includes France, Russia and the United States, in Geneva, while Armenia ruled out that its foreign minister would meet his Azerbaijani counterpart during this summit.  The official in charge of the file of civil rights in times of war in Karabakh said that the first estimates indicate that about fifty percent of the population of Karabakh has been displaced by the battles that left dozens of civilians dead and hundreds of soldiers dead.             

Half of the population of Nagorny Karabakh was displaced due to the battles between the government of the separatist region An Armenian The majority of its inhabitants areAzerbaijan, Before the first international mediation meeting to be held Thursday in Geneva.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for an end to the ongoing “tragedy”, whose intensity there is no sign of abating.

The conflict has polarized regional powers, and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has warned that Turkey’s support for Azerbaijan threatens to “internationalize” the conflict.

The fighting erupted in one of the most frozen and explosive conflicts since the fall of the Soviet Union, on 27 September and the two sides showed no desire for a settlement.

In an interview with Russian state television, Putin said, “It is a colossal tragedy. People are dying. We hope that this conflict will stop as soon as possible.”

Putin called for a ceasefire to be agreed “as soon as possible” regardless of whether the chronic conflict could be resolved.

Shortly thereafter, Azerbaijan announced that its Foreign Minister Jihon Permov would visit Geneva on Thursday and meet with leaders of the Minsk Group, a mediation body that includes France, Russia and the United States. The group seeks to resolve the conflict that has existed since the 1990s.

For its part, Armenia ruled out holding a meeting between its Foreign Minister Zahrab Manatsakyanian and his Azerbaijani counterpart, considering that “it is impossible to combine negotiations with the continuation of military operations.”

The Armenian Foreign Minister will meet his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on Monday in Moscow.

On Wednesday, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu held a phone call with his Azerbaijani and Armenian counterparts, according to Russian news agencies.

The shelling by Azerbaijani forces turned Stepanakert, the main city of Karabakh, into a ghost town filled with unexploded ordnance and shell craters.

Artak Bulgarian, the official in charge of the file of civilian rights in times of war in Karabakh, said, “According to our initial estimates, about fifty percent of the population have been displaced. Qarabagh Ninety percent of women and children, equivalent to about seventy to 75 thousand people. ”

Sirens sounded to warn of air strikes throughout the night, which saw several explosions in the city plunged into darkness.

A correspondent of the French News Agency said that new strikes targeted the city on Wednesday morning, while the noise accompanying the strikes indicated that the source was a drone.

Azerbaijan accused the Armenian forces of bombing city targets in populated areas, including the country’s second largest city, Ganja, which has more than 330,000 people.

Dozens of civilians were killed in the fighting, and the Armenian side acknowledged that more than 300 of its soldiers had been killed, while Azerbaijan did not announce the deaths of its forces.

Public Prosecution spokeswoman Junai Salimzadeh said that 427 homes of nearly 1,200 people have been destroyed since the current conflict began.

However, Le Drian accused Azerbaijan in a speech before the French Parliament of sparking the current conflict, expressing his regret at “the occurrence of a large number of civilian casualties in order to achieve slight (field) progress” in Azerbaijan.

“Turkey’s full support”

Baku and Yerevan, locked in a decades-long conflict for control of the Armenian-dominated region, split from Baku during a war in the early 1990s that killed nearly 30,000 people.

Karabakh province, which is inhabited by about 140 thousand people, the vast majority of whom are Armenians, declared its independence, but no party, not even Armenia, has recognized the independence of the region.

The talks aimed at settling the conflict, which began with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, have stalled significantly since the 1994 ceasefire agreement.

Several confrontations have erupted between the two sides over the past decades, the largest of which was in April 2016, which resulted in the killing of 110 people.

But analysts say the game-changer this time is support for Turkey, which is said to have sent Syrian fighters loyal to Ankara to support Azerbaijan, as well as home-made drones that have already been successfully deployed in Libya and Syria.

Le Drian said, “What is new is the presence of a military intervention by Turkey, which could lead to further internationalization of the conflict.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that Turkey sent 1,200 fighters to the region, noting that at least 64 Syrian militants loyal to Ankara were killed in the confrontations.

For his part, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called Tuesday on the world to support Azerbaijan, “the party that is right,” describing Armenia as an “occupier.”

Greater risk

Russia maintains good relations with the two parties to the conflict, which it supplies, but it is closer to Armenia, a member of a military alliance dominated by Moscow.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, in an interview with Agence France-Presse, issued a veiled warning to Azerbaijan against expanding the conflict, recalling his military alliance with the Russian elder brother. “I am confident that Russia will fulfill its obligations if the situation so requires,” he said.

During the televised interview, Putin announced that Russia “will respect its obligations within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization,” noting at the same time that the confrontations “are not taking place on the territory of Armenia” but on the lands of Nagorny Karabakh, the Azerbaijani separatist region supported by Yerevan.

But in the event that the conflict spreads to Armenian lands, this may compel Russia to intervene, especially since it has a base in Armenia.

In an interview with a Russian TV channel, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said that Armenia’s attempt to lure the Collective Security Treaty Organization into the conflict was “unacceptable.”

Meanwhile, the Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, warned of the presence of Syrian fighters, considering that this matter “poses a great danger and a cause of great concern to Russia.”

On Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that he would not tolerate the presence of “terrorists from Syria and elsewhere” near his country’s borders with Azerbaijan.

Iran maintains friendly relations with Armenia and views with suspicion the existing military cooperation between Azerbaijan and Israel.

France 24 / AFP

            

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