Azerbaijan-Armenia Update: 28 September, 2020

Apologies for not getting the update published sooner but today grew busier than expected.

Fighting between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces continued into its second day, feeding worries about the conflict escalating to a full-blown war that will draw in a number of regional powers. Casualties have been reported by both sides, and according to various third-party sources a high number of civilians have been killed or wounded so far. Azerbaijani defense officials have released video purportedly showing Azerbaijani drone strikes on Armenian air defense vehicles. The Armenians released their own video yesterday supposedly of Azerbaijani tanks and other armored vehicles coming under fire and exploding. There is no way right now to confirm the authenticity of either side’s videos, but it would not be outside the realm of possibility for some, or even all of them to be less than authentic.

The increasing concern about this conflict touching off a regional war is not hyperbole. Russia has maintained close economic ties with Azerbaijan and Armenia since the breakup of the Soviet Union. But Armenia is deeper inside of the Russian sphere, holding membership in the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union and Collective Security Treaty Organization. Azerbaijan is a member of neither. Azerbaijan’s closest ally is Turkey. Having these two major powers on opposing sides has raised some eyebrows. There is a possibility that an expanded conflict could bring Russia and Turkey into the fighting, however, at this point the chance of that happening is minimal.

Unconfirmed reports have been circulating about Syrian mercenaries in Azerbaijan preparing to join the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh. Earlier reports claim that Turkey has brought the Syrians to Azerbaijan.

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