25 June 2024,   06:59
Situation in Nagorno-Karabakh is extremely tense - air raid sirens have been activated in Stepanakert

Azerbaijan announced a new offensive in the ethnic-Armenian controlled breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, a major escalation which could turn the simmering South Caucasus dispute into all-out war, writes POLITICO.

In a statement issued by Azerbaijan’s defense ministry on Tuesday, officials said they were launching “local anti-terrorist activities” to “suppress large-scale provocations” in the territory. Baku also declared that it will “evacuate” the local Armenian population: “As part of the measures, positions on the front line and in-depth, long-term firing points of the formations of Armenia’s armed forces, as well as combat assets and military facilities are incapacitated using high-precision weapons”.

The dramatic escalation comes after months of fruitless negotiations and amid growing speculation Azerbaijan could seek to use force to bring a decades-long frozen conflict to an end once and for all. Air raid sirens have been activated in Stepanakert, the de facto capital of the unrecognized state, local media reported.

Speaking to POLITICO, Hikmet Hajiyev, foreign policy adviser to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, said that the “goal is to neutralize military infrastructure” and added that the local Armenian population had been sent SMS messages warning them of the “counter-terrorism actions””: “They have been asked to stay apart from legitimate military targets”.

In a subsequent statement, the Azerbaijani defense ministry said it had established “humanitarian corridors and reception points” in order to “ensure the evacuation of the population from the dangerous area”.