Iran reports drone crash near Azerbaijan border as fighting continues

Nagorno-Karabakh militia soldier Kamo Naira holds his Kalashnikov during a military conflict near Hadrut, the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh. A

Iran said that an unidentified drone crashed near its border with Azerbaijan on Tuesday, as Baku and Yerevan accused each other of violating a truce in the fight against Nagorno-Karabakh.

The drone crashed in a village in Parsabad County, Ardebil Province, along Iran's northern border, Deputy Governor Behrouz Nedayi told IRNA, Iran's state news agency.

"The identity and cause of the drone crash in the area are being investigated," he said, not reporting any damage.

According to IRNA, the drone "may belong to Azerbaijan or the Armenian army, given the fighting beyond the northern border of Iran."

For decades, the two neighbors have been locked in a dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnically Armenian area that broke away from Baku in the 1990s, costing around 30,000 lives.

On Tuesday, the Armenian and Azerbaijani forces engaged in new fighting despite pleas from the world and regional authorities to observe the ceasefire agreed last week.

The International Committee of the Red Cross urged Armenia and Azerbaijan to finalize the arrangements for the exchange of prisoners and conflict bodies, which left nearly 600 dead, including 73 civilians, on the basis of partial tolls on both sides.

"To date, we are continuing to discuss this issue intensively with the parties, but no meaningful agreement has yet been reached that will actually allow us to engage in such an exchange," Martin Schuepp, ICRC Eurasia Regional Director, told a news briefing in Geneva, adding that he was passing proposals back and forth.

"There are discussions going on with the sides, and we hope that the conditions will be met in order to actually implement such an operation in the future," he said, also calling for security guarantees to be provided to ICRC staff.

Iran called on both sides to cease hostilities and offered to facilitate talks.

Azeris are estimated to make up 10 million of Iran's 80-million population, which is also home to nearly 100,000 Armenians.

The European Union and Iran have also called on the parties to ensure that the ceasefire is properly observed.

However, concerns remain over the role of Turkey, which strongly supported Azerbaijan and is accused, in particular by French President Emmanuel Macron, of dispatching pro-Ankara Syrian militias to assist Baku.

According to the United Kingdom-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 1,450 such fighters have gone to Azerbaijan, including 250 who have traveled alone in the last week.

It was said that 119 of them had died, 78 of whom had already been repatriated to Syria with other bodies still in Azerbaijan.

Armenia is part of a regional Russian-led security group, but Moscow has so far refused to become involved in the conflict.

Yet analysts say that Turkey's involvement will further strain the alliance between President Vladimir Putin and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Publish : 2020-10-13 12:17:00

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