Jerusalem (Agenzia Fides) - The ongoing military conflict between Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh is again leading to the death of innocent people and the flight of men and women, children and old people from the horrors of war. A scenario of suffering and devastation that must be stopped as quickly as possible with the participation of all international actors. This is what the Patriarchs and the Heads of the Churches and Christian communities of Jerusalem demand in a statement published on Friday, October 2. In their message, which was also signed by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, and by Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The signatories express their condolences to the communities involved in the conflict, invoking God's mercy on them. They call on "the European rulers, the Presidents of Russia and the United States of America and the Secretary-General of the United Nations" to "intervene as soon as possible" in order to "reach an immediate ceasefire and negotiate a lasting peace".
The Nagorno-Karabakh region is located in the Caucasus Mountains. The majority of Armenians live here, in an area which, after the Bolshevik conquest of 1920, was assigned to Azerbaijan as an "Autonomous Oblast" at the behest of Stalin. The question of the ethnic-political tensions surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh already exploded at the time of the dissolution of the Soviet Union: In this region with an Armenian majority, the responsible local authority had declared the birth of the new Republic of Artsakh in September 1991 according to the then Soviet legislation, after Azerbaijan had decided to leave the USSR. A referendum and elections followed, but in January of the following year the Azerbaijani army sparked a conflict that left 30,000 dead and ended in a ceasefire agreement in 1993, which has since been continuously violated by border attacks and skirmishes.
The new clashes in recent days between Azerbaijani armed forces and the Armenian-backed separatist authorities have resulted in more than 200 deaths, according to Armenian sources, while Azerbaijan reports 19 civilians killed and 60 wounded. A ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh, said Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, can only be "concluded on condition that Armenia withdraws its armed forces". The geopolitical conflict between Russia and Turkey (as Azerbaijan's ally) in the Middle East is no stranger to the resurgence of tensions. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 3/10/2020)