Oct. 5 (UPI) — Both Armenia and Azerbaijan accused each other on Monday of attacking civilian areas as military violence intensified in the biggest flare-up in the south Caucasus region for more than 25 years.
Separatist forces in Nagorno-Karabakh released video Sunday purporting to show that Azerbaijan fired Israeli-made M095 DPICM cluster bombs which exploded on the streets of Stepanakert in Armenian-controlled Azerbaijan.
Amnesty International confirmed that attack on Monday and called for both sides to stop shelling civilian areas.
“The use of cluster bombs in any circumstances is banned under international humanitarian law, so their use to attack civilian areas is particularly dangerous and will only lead to further deaths and injuries,” said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s acting head of eastern Europe and central Asia in a statement.
Meanwhile Azerbaijan reported that Armenian forces were shelling “densely populated civilian areas” in Ganja, Barda, Beylagan and other towns “with missiles and rockets,” the Guardian reported. Videos released Monday claimed to show a destroyed marketplace in Ganja.
The two sides have clashed over Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian-controlled region located within Azerbaijan’s borders, since the Soviet Union dissolved in the 1990s.
Hostilities have increased since Sept. 27, when the Armenian government declared martial law and announced it had shot down Azerbaijiani helicopters and drones. Azerbaijan also accused Armenians of killing civilians in air attacks.
Residents of the region worry that the conflict will spread to neighboring countries. Turkey is a long-time ally of Azerbaijan and Russia supports the Armenians. More than 40 civilians have been killed in renewed skirmishes, and more than 200 people have been injured, the Guardian reported Monday.
On Monday, Iran’s government warned both countries that spillover from the southern border of the conflict into Iran would be not be tolerated.
“Some bullets and rockets have hit areas of Iran, and we have reminded them that they need to take better control,” said Interior Minister Rahmani Fazliand on Iranian television. “If it continues like this, we will give them a much stronger warning and take reciprocal action if necessary,” he added.
Meanwhile, U.S. and European diplomats have urged both sides to stop the fighting.
“Recent attacks allegedly targeting civilian centers …. and the disproportionate nature of such attacks constitute an unacceptable threat to the stability of the region,” a statement from the Minsk Group, made up of leaders of Russia, France and the United States, said Monday.
Also on Monday, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Steve Biegun said he had urged both sides to adopt an immediate ceasefire and return to mediation.
“There is no military solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” Morgan Ortagus of the U.S. state department warned Monday.