The European Union has warned regional powers not to interfere in the ongoing military clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) urges the two Caucasus republics to protect civilian lives.
The spokesperson for EU Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Peter Stano, raised the alarm on Monday about the interference of regional powers in the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh, and censured the confrontation as a "serious escalation" that could pose a threat to stability in the South Caucasus region.
"No one should be interested and no one is going to profit from an all-out war… This is something we want to prevent, and we are calling as the EU, as the international community, on all the actors involved to stop immediately and on all the other actors in the region to contribute to stopping the confrontations," Stano said.
"The escalation is very worrying because it carries the risk of serious, serious escalation and serious consequences for the regional stability,” the EU official underlined.
Stating that Brussels could not confirm reports of outside forces joining the conflict, Stano added, "No external interference in this conflict is acceptable."
"We call for an immediate ceasefire, a cessation of hostilities, de-escalation and strict observance of the ceasefire," he concluded.
Stano’s remarks came as the ICRC expressed concerns about the humanitarian impact of the ongoing conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh and called for the protection of civilian lives on both sides.
The ICRC urged Azerbaijan and Armenia to take all necessary measures to ensure that civilian lives and infrastructure are respected and protected.
“We reiterate our commitment to assist and support those affected by this escalation as well as to act as a neutral intermediary,” said ICRC’s regional director Martin Schüepp. “We urge the sides to exercise all the efforts possible at all times to abide by the principles of the international humanitarian law.”
Since 1992, the International Committee of the Red Cross has been carrying out humanitarian work in the region in connection with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Azerbaijani and Armenian forces battled for a second day on Monday after dozens were killed in an outbreak of heavy fighting.
Clashes broke out early on Sunday along the frontlines of Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but has an Armenian population.
The two countries have been locked in the territorial dispute since the 1990s, when Karabakh declared its independence after a war that claimed 30,000 lives.
World leaders have urged a halt in recent fighting as the conflict has raised the specter of a fresh war between the two ex-Soviet Republics.
Erdogan urges Armenia to end 'occupation'
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Armenia on Monday to stop the "occupation" of Nagorno-Karabakh following the deadly clashes in the region.
"The time has come for the crisis in the region that started with the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh to be put to an end," Erdogan said.
"Once Armenia immediately leaves the territory it is occupying, the region will return to peace and harmony," he added.
Turkey strongly backs Azerbaijan in the region and has historically poor relations with Armenia.
Erdogan also blamed Armenia for starting the latest escalation, accusing the United States, Russia and France of failing to properly address the conflict in their negotiations within the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group.
The trio have mediated peace efforts as the "Minsk Group" but the last big push for a peace deal collapsed in 2010.
"They basically did everything they could not to resolve the issue," Erdogan said. "Now Azerbaijan must take matters into its own hands."
Armenia must send back foreign 'mercenaries'
Also on Monday, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Armenia must end its attacks and pull out forces from the disputed region.
"Armenia must immediately halt its attacks, send back the mercenaries and terrorists it brought from abroad and withdraw from the Azerbaijan lands," Akar said, underlining the urgency of a ceasefire and the protection of regional peace.
This is while Armenia has accused Turkey of providing direct military support for Azerbaijan in a flare-up of fighting between the two former Soviet republics.
In a statement on Monday, the Armenian Foreign Ministry said Ankara had a "direct presence on the ground,” and that Turkish military experts "are fighting side by side" with Azerbaijan.
The ministry also said Baku was using Turkish weapons, including drones and warplanes. Azerbaijan denied the allegations and Turkey has yet to react to the statement.
Karabakh clashes kill 28 more Armenians
Officials in Nagorno-Karabakh region announced on Monday that 28 Armenian troops had been killed in clashes with Azerbaijani forces, bringing their military death toll to 59.
"Twenty-eight servicemen died in action,” Karabakh's Defense Ministry said in a statement, adding that the total death toll rose to 68, including nine civilian deaths — seven in Azerbaijan and two on the Armenian side.
Azerbaijan has not yet released information on military casualties since the latest fighting broke out.
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