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Russian-led bloc does not see prospect of intervention in Karabakh conflict

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Secretary General of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) Stanislav Zas (L) meets Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow on March 11, 2020.

The head of a Russian-led military alliance, which includes Armenia, says he is confident the ongoing fighting over the Azerbaijani territory of Karabakh will not proceed to a stage to warrant an intervention.  

“I am certain the situation will not have such a development, because Azerbaijan has no territorial claims to Armenia and does not encroach on its integrity,” Stanislav Zas, the chief of the six-member Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), said on Thursday.  

Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but it has been under the control of Armenian-backed separatists since the early 1990s.

The recent clashes – the worst in decades – erupted on September 27, with both Yerevan and Baku accusing each other of provocation.

Since the onset of the clashes, hundreds of people have reportedly been killed, including many civilians.

Zas said he believed Azerbaijan would not strike out at the territory of Armenia even as Armenian troops have fired ballistic missiles at Azerbaijani cities outside the disputed zone, including the country's second largest city of Ganja and a city near capital Baku.

"It seems to me that there is enough common sense and responsibility to their people among the Azerbaijani leadership to refrain from such decisions because they understand that it will immediately change the situation,” Interfax quoted him as saying.

Russia has a defense pact with Armenia, where Russian troops and warplanes are stationed, but that agreement does not apply to Karabakh because it is not Armenian territory.

On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow has “always fulfilled, is fulfilling and will continue to fulfill” all its obligations to Armenia under the framework of the CSTO.

“However, the military operations, which are still ongoing, are not taking place on the territory of Armenia,” he noted in an interview with Russia-1 TV channel.

Zas said the CSTO, however, did not welcome actions by Turkey and other countries in the conflict apart from ones aimed at fostering peace.

Turkey and Azerbaijan have strong relations and both consider themselves “one nation, two states.” The Turkish government has already denounced what it describes as the Armenian occupation of Karabakh.

Both Ankara and Baku have so far denied there is any Turkish involvement in the ongoing conflict. However, Turkey says it is ready to support Azerbaijan if needed.

The renewed fighting has increased concern that Turkey and Russia could be sucked into the conflict.

The growing clashes have also aroused international concern over stability in the South Caucasus, where pipelines carry Azerbaijan’s oil and gas to world markets.

Nagorno-Karabakh denies reports of truce

On Thursday, Azerbaijani troops and Armenian-backed separatists fought with artillery and heavy guns as the United States, France and Russia stepped up efforts to secure a ceasefire and avert a wider war.

Azeri Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov was due to attend Thursday’s talks in Geneva, but no direct meetings have been scheduled between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan is expected to hold separate talks with US, French and Russian officials in Moscow on Monday.

Russia’s foreign ministry said earlier on Thursday that it was in talks with Azerbaijan and Armenia to organize a possible meeting in Moscow.

Karabakh's self-proclaimed defense ministry, however, denied reports of a planned ceasefire starting on Thursday.

Baku recalls envoy to Greece

Additionally on Thursday, Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry said in a statement that it had recalled its ambassador to Greece for consultations.

“We brought to the attention of the Greek Foreign Ministry information from open sources about the arrival of Armenian citizens from foreign countries, including from Greece, to the occupied territories of Azerbaijan to participate in military operations,” the ministry noted.

Yerevan has denied the allegations and Athens has recalled its ambassador to Azerbaijan after what it said were “unfounded and offensive” allegations by Baku that Greece housed militants on its territory.

Azerbaijan denies shelling cathedral  

Meanwhile, Azeri defense ministry strongly rejected claims that the country’s troops had shelled a historic cathedral in Shusha, an Azerbaijani city outside the Karabakh region which is held by Armenian forces. 

“The information about the damage to the church in Shusha has nothing to do with the military actions of the Azerbaijani army,” the statement said.

“Unlike the armed forces of Armenia... the Azerbaijani army does not target historical, cultural, or especially religious buildings and monuments,” it added.

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