Further fighting reported between Azerbaijan and Armenian forces along NK line of control Sept. 28. Avoid area; related disruptions likely.

Alert Begins 28 Sep 2020 02:05 PM UTC
Alert Expires 05 Oct 2020 11:59 PM UTC

  • Incident: Clashes
  • Location(s): Nagorno-Karabakh line of contact
  • Date: Sept. 28
  • Impact: Heightened security, likely further clashes; transport disruptions; possible protests

Summary
Fighting along the Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) line of contact between Karabakh Armenian and Azerbaijani military forces is continuing as of Sept. 28 following the outbreak of large-scale hostilities the previous day. While both sides have issued conflicting statements, Azerbaijan alleges that Armenian forces shelled several locations, including the town of Tartar, the morning of Sept. 28, killing six civilians. It also claims that it has seized several villages in the Jabrayil area; NK authorities have admitted that they have lost control of some border areas and also claim that Azerbaijan has targeted artillery on civilian areas, including the city of Stepanakert; residents in affected areas have been urged to move into bomb shelters.

According to Azerbaijani military sources, the heaviest fighting is concentrated on high ground around the Agdam and Jebrayil sectors of the NK line of contact, and Mount Murovdag. Cross-border violence, including artillery and airstrikes, is also possible elsewhere along the line of contact, as well as along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, though is unlikely to impact areas further than 30 km (18 miles) from the frontier, including Baku and Yerevan.

Armenia has declared martial law nationwide and ordered the general mobilization of males under the age of 55, instructing them to report to their territorial military recruiting offices. Similarly, NK officials have declared martial law within their enclave and are mobilizing men over the age of 18 years old. As part of the measure, Armenian hospitals have reportedly suspended routine procedures and are providing emergency treatment only.

Martial law came into effect in Azerbaijani 0001 Sept. 28. In addition, an indefinite 2100-0600 curfew has been imposed in the cities of Baku, Ganja, Sumgayit, Yevlakh, Mingachevir, and Naftalan, as well as in the districts of Absheron, Jebrayil, Fuzuli, Agjabadi, Beylagan, Agdam, Barda, Tartar, Goranboy, Goygol, Dashkasan, Gadabay, Tovuz, Shamkir, Gazakh and Agstafa. Azerbaijan has also reportedly implemented certain restrictions on internet social media access, which authorities assert have been put in place to thwart potential hostile disinformation efforts.

Authorities have restricted operations at Baku’s Heydar Aliyev International Airport (GYD) until at least Sept. 30 as part of the martial law regime. Azerbaijan Airlines (J2) has canceled a number of flights in the coming days, including to Berlin, Germany, London, UK, and the Azeri exclave of Nakhchivan. Other international flights connecting with Armenia or Azerbaijan could face disruption while hostilities last as airlines restrict services out of an abundance of caution.

Spontaneous or planned demonstrations in response to the latest fighting are possible in major cities of Armenia or Azerbaijan. Authorities will probably move quickly to disperse any such gatherings that may materialize.

Background and Analysis
Baku states that it launched an offensive into NK early Sept. 27 after Armenian artillery strikes killed a number of civilians in the villages of Gapanly, Chiragly, Orta Gervend, Alkhanli, Shukurbeyli, and Jojug. Both sides claim that the other has lost a significant number of men and equipment, though such statements are likely to be unreliable in the short term. Nevertheless, available reporting suggests that the clashes have involved some degree of rocket and gun artillery, armor, and air support, in addition to small arms fire.

Tensions have been elevated since July, when opposing military units reportedly used small arms, artillery, and tanks to target each other on the border separating Armenia's Tavush District and Azerbaijan's Tovuz District, in what was at the time the heaviest fighting since April 2016. Sporadic attacks, albeit of less intensity, have since occurred at various locations along the NK line of contact within Azerbaijan, including in the Agdam, Khojavand, Terter, Jebrayil, and Fuzuli districts.

While Armenian and Azerbaijani forces have frequently engaged in clashes along the NK line of contact and the two countries' shared border further north, neither government has previously gone so far as to declare martial law, impose curfews, or call for general mobilizations since the ceasefire in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict went into effect in 1994. Such reactions by Yerevan and Baku suggest that this most recent spate of fighting has been particularly significant. Nevertheless, hostilities will probably remain confined to the shared border areas and are therefore unlikely to pose a threat to people operating in locations away from the combat zone, including Baku and Yerevan. Precedent suggests that international pressure will dissuade both sides from escalating into full state-on-state conflict and the fighting will abate in the short term.

Advice
Consider avoiding nonessential travel to areas near the NK line of contact or close to the Armenia-Azerbaijan border until the situation stabilizes. If operating in these areas, exercise extreme caution; carry proper identification at all times and heed the instructions of local security personnel. Consider alternative methods for routing shipments in the vicinity of the conflict zone. Avoid any demonstrations that might materialize in Azerbaijan or Armenia.