Turkey’s involvement in Azerbaijan’s attacks on Armenia and Artsakh has become increasingly clear this week, according to government officials in France, as the Armenian military claims a major victory on the front lines.
“The news in the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh is that there is military involvement of Turkey,” said French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian at a National Assembly hearing on Wednesday. He went on to say that France deplored “a large number of civilian casualties for little territorial progress on [the] part of Azerbaijan, given it is Azerbaijan that initiated the conflict. This threatens to lead to the internationalization of the conflict, which we ourselves are trying to avoid in every possible way.” France has long been concerned since the start of the September 27 incursion about Turkey’s “warlike messages.” At the European Union summit in Brussels last week, President Emmanuel Macron even alluded to “precise” evidence that Syrian militants, beckoned by Turkey, are playing an active role.
France’s public condemnation preceded a crucial report by the New York Times Visual Investigations Team, which confirmed the presence of at least two Turkish-operated F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft at the Ganja International Airport in Azerbaijan. The military airbase of that airport, according to Artsakh officials, was destroyed by Artsakh’s forces on October 4. Utilizing satellite imagery captured on October 3, the team of journalists compared the characteristics of the two fighters with a variety of aircraft to confirm that they are indeed F-16s, which the Armenian Ministry of Defense announced on September 29 was the exact type of aircraft that was used by Turkey to shoot down an Armenian SU-25 Frogfoot ground-attack jet over Armenian airspace. While Turkey denied the claim, insisting that its armed forces had not been directly engaged in the conflict, the investigation proves the presence of Turkish military aircraft in Azerbaijan; it does not prove, however, that the aircraft in the NYT investigation was the one involved in the September takedown. The investigations team also identified a possible Turkish-operated CASA/IPTN CN-235 military cargo aircraft parked on the Ganja apron.
There are at least two F-16s at Ganja International Airport in Azerbaijan, our analysis of an Oct. 3 @planetlabs satellite image shows. The fighter jets are likely operated by the Turkish Air Force, alongside a possible CN-235 cargo aircraft. Here’s a short thread why. pic.twitter.com/de1XsmXXZr
— Christiaan Triebert (@trbrtc) October 7, 2020
Meanwhile, Armenian officials extolled a significant victory by the Artsakh Defense Army in the ongoing fighting along the Line of Contact on Wednesday. Artsakh President Arayik Harutyunyan shared a message on Facebook that the army recaptured a key position and rescued 19 soldiers, who had been hiding in a nearby forest awaiting a counterattack. As a result of the combined military operation, Azerbaijani forces suffered significant losses in military equipment as well as over 100 casualties. “In a short time, the military operations and heroism of these few days will be written in bold gold letters in our history,” said Armenian Ministry of Defense representative Artsrun Hovhannisyan.
Intense battles continued to rage along the entire length of the Line of Contact in the Northern and Southern directions on Wednesday. Armenian Press Secretary of the Ministry of Defense Shushan Stepanyan tweeted that the Defense Army stopped an advance by the Azerbaijani military in the southeast direction near Jebrail. Armenian forces had also destroyed a large storage depot that was said to contain vital oil products. In an interview with RBC, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called the recent military achievements the key moment of the whole operation. “The real foundation [is being laid] for the final victory of the Karabakh army,” he asserted.
Destruction of another large stockpile of vital oil products of the Azerbaijani army in the result of brilliant operations of the Artsakh Defense Army pic.twitter.com/dpba1jHwnm
— Shushan Stepanyan (@ShStepanyan) October 7, 2020
The Artsakh Defense Ministry released 80 new names of Armenian soldiers killed in combat on October 7, bringing the total number of casualties to over 300. More than 3,700 Azerbaijani troops have died since the beginning of the fighting, according to Armenian officials.
France, the United States and Russia, co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, will convene in Geneva on Thursday and Moscow on Monday to deliberate steps to end fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan and resume negotiations for a ceasefire between the two countries. The Armenian Foreign Ministry announced that Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan will join representatives from the mediating countries in Moscow. The Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov is set to visit Geneva on Thursday to “present Azerbaijan’s position on the conflict’s resolution.” Armenian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Anna Naghdalian precluded the possibility of a meeting between the two Ministers, asserting that there cannot be a situation where Azerbaijan holds “negotiations with one hand and conducts military operations against Armenia and Artsakh with the other.”
France has been joined in its condemnation of Turkey by members of the European Parliament, who assembled on Wednesday to implore the European Commission to take decisive action to halt Turkish President Erdogan and Azerbaijani President Aliyev’s actions. For instance, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) from Sweden Charlie Weimers proclaimed, “This is a war of aggression by the Azeri dictator Aliyev, supported by President Erdogan’s jihadist allies from Turkey to enforce the injustice of Joseph Stalin’s separation of Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenia.” MEP Martin Sonneborn from Germany concurred, “Whatever Baku gets up to there they can do thanks to Erdogan, who’s shown his determination to finish the genocide begun 100 years ago.” MEP Peter van Dalen from the Netherlands admonished, “Please keep your eyes and ears open to what is happening. Despot Erdogan wants to restore the old Ottoman Empire.”
In response to these statements, the High Representative of the European Union Josep Borrell shared that he has met with the Foreign Ministers of Turkey, Azerbaijan, Russia and Armenia within the past week to urge a return to meaningful negotiations. “There can be no military solution to the conflict, nor external interference,” he declared.