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Azerbaijan threatens another war in Karabakh amid tensions with Armenia

Azerbaijan’s pro-government media and officials have hinted at launching another military operation in Nagorno-Karabakh, the disputed region where a bloody war erupted in 2020 between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

The possible offensive, dubbed “Revenge 3” by some Azerbaijani sources, would aim to eliminate the remaining Armenian armed forces in the region and secure Azerbaijan’s sovereignty over the territory.

The tensions have escalated in recent weeks after several incidents of ceasefire violations and exchanges of fire along the line of contact. On June 28, an Azerbaijani soldier was wounded by an Armenian sniper fire near the village of Shusha, which was captured by Azerbaijan during the war. In response, Azerbaijan launched an attack on July 1, killing two Armenian soldiers and wounding six others. The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry called it “Operation Revenge 2” and said it was a retaliation for the wounding of its soldier.

On July 3, the head of Azerbaijani state television AzTV, Rovshan Mammadov, said on his weekly talk show that Baku was within its rights to conduct “an anti-terror operation” in Karabakh and suggested it be titled “Revenge 3”. He said that international law allowed for it and that it was Azerbaijan’s territory as established by international law. He added that Azerbaijan did not want a war but needed to see Armenia’s recognition of Karabakh as Azerbaijani territory not only verbally but in a document.

New Azerbaijan, the official newspaper of the ruling party, published a similar commentary on July 4 under the subhead “[Armenian] provocations lay the groundwork for Revenge 3”. It said that Armenia’s non-fulfillment of its obligations under the tripartite declaration signed in 2020 by Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia had created a new situation in the region. It claimed that after the deployment of the Russian peacekeeping contingent to the relevant territories, the Armenian armed forces did not leave the territory of Azerbaijan but engaged in new provocation-oriented activities.

President Ilham Aliyev echoed these sentiments in his speech at a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement in Baku on July 5. He said there were still “remnants of Armenian armed forces” in Karabakh and that if Armenia was really interested in achieving peace in the region, then its armed forces must completely leave the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. He warned that ending the presence of any Armenian armed groups was a prerequisite for a comprehensive peace deal with Yerevan.

Armenia has denied having any regular troops in Karabakh and has accused Azerbaijan of violating the ceasefire agreement and endangering the lives of civilians and Russian peacekeepers. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said in May that Armenia was ready to recognize Azerbaijani sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh in exchange for internationally backed guarantees for the rights and security of the region’s Armenian population. He also called for the unblocking of all transport and communication links in the region as stipulated by the trilateral declaration.

The Second Nagorno-Karabakh War broke out on September 27, 2020 and lasted until November 10, 2020 when a ceasefire agreement was brokered by Russia. The war resulted in more than 6,000 deaths and tens of thousands of displaced people on both sides. It also led to significant territorial gains for Azerbaijan, which regained control of most of the Armenian-occupied territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh as well as parts of Nagorno-Karabakh proper. The status of Nagorno-Karabakh remains unresolved and a source of instability and tension in the region.

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