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Armenia’s Leader Seeks Trump’s Help as Conflict Rages With Azerbaijan

Armenia’s Leader Seeks Trump’s Help as Conflict Rages With Azerbaijan

When Nikol Pashinyan, Armenia’s prime minister, spoke by phone on Thursday with President Trump’s nationwide safety adviser, he raised a fragile difficulty: Why is nothing being performed to cease a longtime United States ally, Turkey, from utilizing American-made F-16 jets towards ethnic Armenians in a disputed mountain area?

Mr. Pashinyan’s name to the nationwide safety adviser, Robert O’Brien, adopted an eruption of heavy combating in and round Nagorno-Karabakh, a distant territory on the heart of essentially the most enduring and venomous of the “frozen conflicts” left by the collapse of the Soviet Union within the late 1980s.

The breakaway enclave, legally a part of Azerbaijan however managed by Armenians for the previous three many years, has seen many army flare-ups over time. But the present combating, Mr. Pashinyan mentioned in a phone interview, has taken on a much more harmful dimension due to Turkey’s direct army intervention in assist of Azerbaijan, its ethnic Turkic ally.

On Sunday, information studies mentioned, the forces of Armenia and Azerbaijan, each former Soviet republics, exchanged rocket fireplace, with missiles falling on Azerbaijan’s second largest metropolis, Ganja, and on the Armenian-controlled capital of Nagorno-Karabakh. Each facet accused the opposite of focusing on civilians whereas denying finishing up any assaults itself on residential areas.

The battle has set off alarms in regards to the dangers of a wider struggle and put the United States, with its massive and politically influential Armenian diaspora, within the uncomfortable place of watching Turkey, an important NATO ally, deploying F-16 jets in assist of Armenia’s enemies.

“The United States,” Mr. Pashinyan mentioned, “needs to explain whether it gave those F-16s to bomb peaceful villages and peaceful populations.” He mentioned that Mr. O’Brien had “heard and acknowledged” his considerations and promised to arrange a cellphone dialog between the Armenian chief and President Trump.

That alternative to rally the United States to Armenia’s facet vanished only a few hours later when President Trump introduced that he had examined optimistic for the coronavirus.

But Mr. Trump’s well being points, analysts say, have solely accentuated his administration’s disengagement from a battle that provides no straightforward diplomatic victories. It has confounded many years of efforts to resolve a dispute that has left Armenians answerable for not solely Nagorno-Karabakh however massive swathes of Azerbaijani territory outdoors the breakaway enclave.

Mr. Pashinyan declined to say whether or not Armenia may be able to give up any occupied Azerbaijani land as a part of a doable peace settlement, insisting that this was less than him however a matter for the leaders of Nagorno-Karabakh, a nominally unbiased entity dominated by ethnic Armenians.

Turkey mentioned on Sunday that Azerbaijani forces had retaken Jabrail, the most recent in a collection of villages beforehand occupied by Armenia now mentioned to be again underneath Azerbaijani management because of combating over the previous week. The declare couldn’t be independently confirmed.

The Trump administration, distracted by different greater points like China, has “simply not been paying attention and been completely disengaged,” mentioned Thomas de Waal, a British skilled on the area and creator of a e-book on Nagorno-Karabakh, “Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War.”

For Armenia, Mr. Pashinyan mentioned, the present combating, which started Sept. 27 after months of rising tensions, poses an “existential threat” due to the function of Turkey, whose precursor, the Ottoman Empire, killed an estimated 1.5 million Armenians on the finish of World War I. The U.S. Congress and lots of international locations have declared that slaughter a “genocide,” a label Turkey strenuously rejects.

Armenia, too, has selective recollections of the previous, with Mr. Pashinyan dismissing the worst atrocity of the 1991-1994 Karabakh struggle — the 1992 killing of a whole bunch of Azerbaijani civilians by Armenian fighters close to the city of Khojaly — as a “pure propaganda trick.”

Armenia and Azerbaijan have a long record of playing down or ignoring each other’s past traumas, a bent that has made all of it however inconceivable for both facet to simply accept reliable grievances and has pissed off outdoors efforts to settle their feud over Nagorno-Karabakh.

“Each side focuses exclusively on their own traumas and belittles those of the other side,” Mr. De Waal mentioned. “This conflict will go on for at least another generation unless it can be smothered by an international security operation” just like the one which tamped down struggle within the Balkans within the 1990s. That, Mr. de Waal added, “is highly unlikely in the current international situation.”

Azerbaijan, Mr. Pashinyan mentioned, has lengthy harbored hopes of recovering Nagorno-Karabakh by drive however was “encouraged” by Turkey to launch its latest offensive towards the Armenian-controlled enclave.

“This is a continuation of the genocidal policies carried out by Turkey against the Armenians,” he mentioned. He accused Turkey of not solely offering air assist but additionally recruiting Syrian fighters, whom he referred to as “mercenaries and terrorists,” to strengthen Azerbaijan’s army forces on the bottom.

Turkey has denied Armenia’s accusations, together with unsubstantiated claims {that a} Turkish F-16 final week shot down an Armenian jet. It has as an alternative attributed the spiraling violence to Armenia, with the overseas ministry in Ankara saying on Sunday that “Armenia is the biggest barrier to peace and stability in the region.”

Though obscured by a fog of propaganda by all sides, the battle has clearly escalated past an area ethnic dispute into an even bigger wrestle as an increasingly assertive Turkey flexes its muscle in a area historically dominated by Russia.

Russia has a army base in Armenia and, with the United States standing again, Moscow has taken the lead in diplomatic efforts, thus far fruitless, to calm the combating whereas avoiding a direct confrontation with Turkey, with which it’s already combating proxy wars in Syria and Libya.

Describing the battle over Nagorno-Karabakh between Christian Armenia and Muslim Azerbaijan as a “civilizational front line,” Mr. Pashinyan mentioned the dispute “is not about territory” however includes far greater and extra vital stakes.

“Armenians in the south Caucasus are the last remaining obstacle in the way of Turkish expansion toward the north, the south and the east,” he mentioned.

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