Azerbaijan on Wednesday (20 September) continued its push into the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh despite criticism from the international community, and pressure to cease all hostilities.
Throughout the night explosions could be heard across the territory as Azerbaijani artillery continued neutralising military objectives of the self-declared Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, which was set up by Armenians in the territory thirty years ago when they seceded from Azerbaijan. The world community still recognises Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan.
Unconfirmed reports say that yesterday, only hours after the start of the operation, Azerbaijan managed to break through the line of contact around Martuni and Askeran, to the north and east of the main administrative town of the territory, Stepanakert. Since the Azerbaijani forces already hold the heights over Stepanakert from the south side, due to their control of the town of Shusha, this may suggest Azerbaijani forces are trying to encircle Stepanakert.
There has been widespread condemnation of the Azerbaijani military offensive by the international community, with all countries, except Turkey, calling on Azerbaijan to end hostilities immediately. The UN Security Council is expected to meet tomorrow (Thursday, 21 September) in the afternoon New York time. It is not clear if a binding UN resolution can emerge, since the position of Russia and China remains ambiguous. It appears Azerbaijan is trying to achieve as many of its objectives as possible before that.
In a conversation with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev said that the main objective of the operation was to disarm the illegal armed formations of the Armenian separatists. Azerbaijani spokespersons have repeatedly said that Azerbaijan is not seeking to expel the Armenian community from the territory and wants to see them properly integrated in Azerbaijani society. But the concern of the international community is that in the current atmosphere it is more likely that the Armenians will leave as the Azerbaijanis advance. Such scenario would mean that everyone has lost – the next hours will say how it is likely to go.
In the meantime Armenia has decided not to get involved directly militarily in the conflict, although it continues to put diplomatic pressure on the international community to take the necessary steps to end hostilities. This position of the Armenian government is not to the like of many in Yerevan. Anti government protests took place overnight in front of the main government builing in the Armenian capital, but the government says it has the situation under control.