Meanwhile Back At The South Caucasus Conflict

I have been watching and writing about the armed conflict that has erupted once again between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Eastern Europe…..

My posts that can explain my thinking….

https://lobotero.com/2020/09/29/conflict-in-the-caucasus/

https://lobotero.com/2020/10/05/nagorno-karabakh/

I know a lot of information to take in….so for those that have an allergic reaction to reading…..

Now that I have filled in the gaps……let’s look at the situation more in-depth…….

Now to look at the players…the Azeris supported by Turkey and the Armenians supported by the West….let’s not forget that the nations involved were once satellites of the USSR…..will this lead to a confrontation between Russia and Turkey?

The “frozen conflict” between Armenia and Azerbaijan has turned very hot. What may seem to many Westerners a minor clash in a remote corner of the world actually has significant implications for regional security, energy markets and the ambitions of two problematic strongmen: Vladimir Putin of Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.

The fighting, which goes back to the collapse of the Soviet Union, centers on a small enclave of ethnic Armenians inside Azerbaijan called Nagorno-Karabakh. The mountainous self-declared republic (which is not even formally recognized by its patron, Armenia) has a population of 150,000 but is highly militarized. The Azeris lost control of the area in a conflict in the 1990s that cost 30,000 lives, and despite much saber-rattling have been unable to get it back though diplomatic or military means.

In my time at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, I visited both countries several times. Dislike and distrust permeated the environment. The two defense chiefs at the time hated each other, and although both nations were nonmember partners with NATO (and had small troop contingents in Afghanistan), all that either man wanted to talk about was the duplicity and venality of the other. Unfortunately, each was accurately channeling the national view toward their neighbor in the Caucasus. Neither side seemed willing to give an inch, either literally and figuratively.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2020/10/04/commentary/world-commentary/war-caucasus-russia-turkey/

Armenia is now blaming Turkey (an old conflict that has no end)..

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said the support of Turkey motivated Azerbaijan to reignite fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh. The fighting continues in the disputed region, with around 300 people reported killed, including civilians on both sides.

“While it is true that the leadership of Azerbaijan has been actively promoting bellicose rhetoric for the last 15 years, now the decision to unleash a war was motivated by Turkey’s full support,” Pashinyan told AFP. “Without Turkey’s active engagement this war would have not begun.”

Pashinyan also said on Tuesday that Armenia was willing to make concessions with Azerbaijan to end the fighting if Baku was willing to do the same. “Conflicts need to be resolved on the basis of mutual concessions,” he said. “Nagorno-Karabakh is ready, and Armenia is ready, to mirror the concessions that Azerbaijan is ready to make.”

Azeri President Ilham Aliyev has previously stated that the fighting will continue until Armenian forces completely withdraw from Nagorno-Karabakh. “Nagorno-Karabakh is our land. We have to go back there, and we are doing it now,” Aliyev said on Sunday.

Other heads of state have accused Turkey of driving the conflict, including French President Emmanuel Macron and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In an interview on Tuesday, Assad accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of being the “main instigator and the initiator” of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.

(antiwar.com)

This situation has the possibility of becoming a wider conflict that could suck in many Western countries as well as Russia…..but just what is Azeris fighting for?

But what, precisely, is the aim of the operation?

Azerbaijani officials haven’t said precisely what their strategic goal is in this round of fighting, but the scale of the offensive suggests that it is more ambitious than previous escalations.

Azerbaijani analysts say that the aim this time may be the recapture of one or two of the territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh that Armenian forces took during the war three decades ago.

“I assume that Azerbaijan intends at least to retake control in Fuzuli and Jabrayil; [those are] the two main priorities for this campaign,” said Fuad Shahbaz, an Azerbaijani analyst, in an email interview with Eurasianet.

https://eurasianet.org/as-fighting-rages-what-is-azerbaijans-goal

The only good news is that the two warring sides have agreed to a ceasefire…

Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to a ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Saturday. The two sides agreed to pause fighting while they exchange prisoners and the bodies of those killed in the conflict. More “substantive” talks over the disputed enclave are expected to start soon.

The announcement came after representatives from Armenia and Azerbaijan met in Moscow for talks mediated by Russia. According to Sputnik, the two sides agreed to a ceasefire after 10 hours of negotiations.

“A ceasefire has been announced, beginning 12:00 on 10 October, 2020, for humanitarian purposes for the exchange of prisoners of war and other detainees, and bodies of the dead, to be mediated in accordance with the criteria of the International Committee of the Red Cross,” Lavrov said in a statement.

The ceasefire announcement comes after the US, France, and Russia met in Geneva to discuss the conflict. The three countries co-chair the Minsk Group, which was set up in 1992 to foster negotiations over the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute.

(antiwar.com)

A ceasefire sounds like a good start right?

Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to a Russia-brokered cease-fire in Nagorno-Karabakh starting Saturday, but immediately accused each other of derailing the deal intended to end the worst outbreak of hostilities in the separatist region in more than a quarter-century, the AP reports. The two sides traded blame for breaking the truce that took effect at noon with new attacks, and Azerbaijan’s top diplomat said the truce never entered force. The cease-fire announcement came overnight after 10 hours of talks in Moscow. The deal stipulated that the cease-fire should pave the way for talks on settling the conflict. If the truce holds, it would mark a major diplomatic coup for Russia, which has a security pact with Armenia but also cultivated warm ties with Azerbaijan.

But the agreement was immediately challenged by mutual claims of violations. Minutes after the truce took force, the Armenian military accused Azerbaijan of shelling the area near the town of Kapan in southeastern Armenia, killing one civilian. Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry rejected the Armenian accusations as a “provocation.” The Azerbaijani military, in turn, accused Armenia of striking the Terter and Agdam regions of Azerbaijan with missiles and then attempting to launch offensives in the Agdere-Terter and the Fizuli-Jabrail areas.

This region is an opportunity for the US to show they can lead still……but the question will be will it?

Several Democratic Senators, in the wake of the war in Nagorno-Karabakh, are proposing that the U.S. impose sanctions or terminate all military assistance to Azerbaijan.  Evidently, they blame Baku for the war.  But while such resolutions may gratify the ubiquitous and deep-rooted moralism and desire to punish malefactors that affects the entire U.S. political class as well as interested domestic constituencies; this intemperate and misconceived move actually runs counter to U.S. interests.  Indeed, it would only confirm Azeri and Turkish suspicions that there is no understanding in Washington concerning the Caucasus and thus no reason to pay attention to this gesture of frustration or to anything else coming out of Washington. Neither would it bring the parties to peace, quite the contrary.  That decision would only lead them to seek patrons elsewhere and further estrange them from Washington while depriving the U.S. of leverage in the region.

Since crisis denotes opportunity as well as threat, this war actually behooves Washington to ponder the reasons for this outbreak of fighting as well as the fact that this war offers the U.S. an opportunity to get back in the ring in the Caucasus, advance its own and the belligerents’ real interests, and help bring about peace and legitimate regional order.  First, we must dispute the widespread belief that we have no vital or important interests at stake here other than possibly the safety of energy shipments to Europe from the Caspian that traverse Azerbaijan and Georgia.  In 1993 when this conflict began, Turkey raised the possibility of attacking Armenia to relieve Azerbaijan.

https://www.realcleardefense.com/articles/2020/10/09/the_war_in_nagorno-karabakh_actually_represents_an_opportunity_for_washington_580211.html

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Conflict In The Caucasus

I have been watching the spiraling conditions around the Caucacus….especially between Armenia and Azerbaijan……I know most Americans have no idea what I am talking about or even where…..

History of the Caucasus - Wikipedia

This conflict has been simmering since the break-up of the USSR….as I have stated I have been watching the region for trouble and I have nbeen writing about it as well…..

https://lobotero.com/2016/05/16/regional-conflict-brewing-in-azerbaijan-armenia/

https://lobotero.com/2020/08/04/on-the-border/

As you see they have been sniping at each other for years….and that “minor” conflict is getting a bit more warm….

Fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan broke out Sunday around the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh and the Armenian Defense Ministry said two Azerbaijani helicopters were shot down.

Ministry spokeswoman Shushan Stepanyan also said Armenian forces hit three Azerbaijani tanks. There was no immediate word on casualties.

Nagorno-Karabakh is an ethnic Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan that has been out of Azerbaijan’s control since the end of a war in 1994. Both sides have heavy military presence along a demilitarized zone separating the region from the rest of Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan’s defense ministry denied the claim that its helicopters and tanks had been hit. But President Ilham Aliyev said in a televised address to the nation that “there are losses among the Azerbaijani forces and the civilian population as a result of the Armenian bombardment.”

https://apnews.com/article/archive-armenia-azerbaijan-19faa7ac72b4024b67a0c0d2ba6ae27d

Caucasian Union: Ever Closer Union of Six Caucasian Nations : imaginarymaps

I spend a lot of time looking at “open source” intel trying to tell what will transpire……India-Pakistan have walked back from the brink of war…..Greece and Turkey are trying to solve their problems as well….but will these two ever “bury the hatchet” that is not in one another’s head?

There is the Bishtek Protocol of 1992……28 years have passed since the time when Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and Azerbaijan have signed the Bishkek Protocol on Ceasefire and have agreed to solve all existing problems only by the help of diplomacy and according to the generally accepted principles of international law. Since 1992, after the collapse of the Soviet Empire, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has take the initiative for resolution of the existing conflict and is acting through the OSCE Minsk Group. Each year the OSCE Minsk Group, which consists of the Russian Federation, USA and France, is the mediation group and is responsible for peacemaking process, organizes a lot formal and informal meetings of the heads of three conflicting parties, but so far they have not got any positive results. Anyway, conflicting parties highly appreciate all efforts of the international community and have stated for many times that are ready to negotiate and find joint solution to the conflict on the basis of the internationally accepted and recognized norms of the international law.

Apparently diplomacy is not working…..and with the current admin in DC I do not see a diplomatic solution.  So the world holds its breath that calmer heads will prevail.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have declared martial law and are moving dangerously toward war this weekend after heavy fighting in the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. At least 16 Nagorno-Karabakh troops were killed in a morning Azeri attack.

Nagorno-Karabakh has been contested for decades. Legally it is viewed as part of Azerbaijan, while Armenia guarantees its independence. The two nations often come into conflict over the region, but haven’t fought a full-scale war for many years.

Nagorno-Karabakh reported they were hit in the morning with airstrikes and artillery attacks. Azerbaijan claimed those attacks were retaliation for Armenian shelling against their forces, which killed five civilians.

Azerbaijan has taken control of seven villages, but lost some of the territory later in the day. Russia is leading a diplomatic push to calm matters, while Turkey is threatening to join the fight.

https://www.crisisgroup.org/europe-central-asia/caucasus/nagorno-karabakh-conflict/259-preventing-bloody-harvest-armenia-azerbaijan-state-border

You know I wish someone would have thought about the dangers in this region before…..WAIT!…..https://lobotero.com/2013/06/13/looking-for-the-linchpin/

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On The Border

I could go off on a tangent about the Trump Wall but in this case it is a conflict in the making in the Caucuses of Central Europe…… between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

History of the Caucasus - Wikipedia

There has always been an animosity between the two……Armenia is a Christian country while Azerbaijan is Muslim…..read about the two countries here (if interested)……

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-17398605

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-17043424

Years ago I wrote about this region as a possible linch pin event that could start a major world incident that may lead to a war…..FYI my post on the subject and region……https://lobotero.com/2013/06/13/looking-for-the-linchpin/

The war of words between Armenia/Azerbaijan has almost always been a part of the region’s history……but there have been several border clashes between the two and they are still readying themselves for the possibilities….

The senior adviser to Azerbaijan’s president said the situation at the border with Armenia reminded him of World War I between France and Germany, with heavily armed soldiers facing each other in border trenches. Hajiyev warned that any spark could lead to a full-blown conflict. He accused Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan of advancing a bellicose nationalist agenda despite claims when he was elected that he wanted to achieve peace with Azerbaijan.

Hajiyev said the threat by Azerbaijan to strike a civilian nuclear plant in Armenia had been made by a low-level military officer and did not reflect his country’s official stance. He went on to accuse Armenia of targeting civilian targets in his country.

He brushed aside claims that Turkey was the reason for the recent flare-up of tension and said that Baku was ready to address and resolve the long-standing conflict with Armenia. 

https://www.france24.com/en/europe/20200722-interview-adviser-to-azerbaijan-s-president-we-are-expecting-provocation-from-armenia-at-any-moment

Things are getting more and more heated between the two nations…..

The mid-July 2020 escalation on Armenia and Azerbaijan’s densely populated state border, which killed over a dozen people and sent women and children fleeing, should sound as a warning. Villagers on both sides of the 230km, trench-lined border have long lived in fear of clashes and landmines. Three decades after the 1992-1994 war over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, children go to schools behind ever-thicker cement walls, farmers shun fertile but mine-riddled fields and young people seek their future elsewhere. International mediation efforts have largely ignored the border regions, focused on untangling disagreements over Nagorno-Karabakh itself. But July’s violence shows how critical it is to pay attention to the safety of more than 150,000 civilians living there. Yerevan and Baku should keep channels open to find mutually beneficial ways to cooperate along the border. The shooting should not stop them from exploring collaboration on narrow initiatives to allow children to attend school, farmers to harvest crops, herders to put livestock to pasture, and water to flow to taps and fields.

For both sides, the potential cost in lives and property of violence is higher along the border than in other areas. Neither side has a clear military advantage in the border zone. Military positions and front-line trenches are so close in places that residents can shout to soldiers on the other side. The border is at the crossroads of the three post-Soviet states of the South Caucasus – Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. As such, it is criss-crossed by key roads, railways and pipelines pumping natural resources from Russia to the region or from Azerbaijan and the Caspian Sea to Europe. Both sides not only have an interest in avoiding disruptions to this infrastructure but also stand to benefit from repurposing and repairing sundered cross-border Soviet-era water supply networks

https://www.crisisgroup.org/europe-central-asia/caucasus/nagorno-karabakh-conflict/259-preventing-bloody-harvest-armenia-azerbaijan-state-border

I still believe that this region holds the key to a wider war……another region is the Pakistan/India/China in the Himalayas…..

I will be watching!

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International Update–2018

There are so many things happening in the world that it is difficult to write about it all….so IST tries to do an update when events out run the time we have to post…..

The Horn of Africa is always a busy place and an important spot to keep an eye on…..

Ethiopia and Eritrea have set aside their long standing animosities….and are trying to work together…..I wrote about some of this before……

https://lobotero.com/2018/07/11/ethiopia-a-rising-star/

There is more about this situation……

Ever since Ethiopiaannounced in early June that it will fully accept the terms of a 2000 peace agreement with neighbouring Eritrea, the pace of normalisation of relations between the two countries has been truly stunning.

First, a high-level Eritrean delegation made a visit to Addis Ababa on June 26 and kickstarted the talks on ending the decades-long conflict. Only a couple of weeks later, Ethiopia’s reformist new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed made a landmark visit to Asmara and met the Eritrean president face-to-face. 

https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/eritreans-happy-peace-wary-afwerki-promises-180709094420940.html

Eritrea has pulled troops back from its heavily militarised border with Ethiopia as a “gesture of reconciliation”, the pro-government Eritrean Press agency said on its Facebook page.

There was no immediate confirmation from the government in Asmara, but the move would be consistent with rapidly improving ties between the Horn of Africa neighbours, whose 1998 war killed tens of thousands and led to two decades of military stalemate.

(reuters)

For a couple of years I have been watching the situation developing in the Caucuses……

https://lobotero.com/2016/05/16/regional-conflict-brewing-in-azerbaijan-armenia/

https://lobotero.com/2018/06/05/between-the-two-seas/

Hostilities run deep in this region and are ever threatening conflict in the making……

Azerbaijan has sharpened its threats of war against Armenia in an apparent attempt to ratchet up tension over Nagorno-Karabakh, the territory that both sides claim.

Verbal threats toward Armenia are nothing new for Azerbaijan, a state for which the phrase “bellicose rhetoric” has become something of a journalistic cliché. But Baku’s rhetoric in the past has tended to couch military threats in the conditional tense, a last resort if diplomatic negotiations fail. Increasingly, however, the military option is being portrayed as the only one.

“The developments unfolding in the world confirm that the international law does not work,” Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev tweeted on June 28. “If it did, Azerbaijani lands would have been freed from the invaders long ago.”

https://lobelog.com/azerbaijans-saber-rattling-grows-louder/

And then there is Syria and yes it is still a complete mess……

Sen. Lindsay Graham, a prominent Republican voice on national security and international policy, spoke out last week during a visit to the Middle East warning Turkey against further military involvement in the Syrian civil war. After meeting with Turkish President Erdogan, Sen. Graham cautioned the NATO ally—“You don’t want any further incursions in Syria by the Turkish military, you’ll get yourself in a quagmire.”

In a world filled with hyperbole, political spin, and fake news, it is rare to hear such an accurate and evidence-based statement as this. The civil war in Syria, raging for more than half a decade, has been a sterling example of a ‘quagmire’ in the geopolitical context since its inception. Even before the fighting started, Syria was one of the most complicated and volatile states in the Middle East.

https://www.realcleardefense.com/articles/2018/07/17/yes_syria_is_still_a_mess_113614.html

That is the round-up…..I hope you guys find it informative.

Regional Conflict Brewing in Azerbaijan, Armenia

I love to use the 4 most beautiful words in the English language…..”I told you so”…..

I have written en op-ed for my friends at Legationes about the region in question…..which is a paper that I researched several years ago……and it is good to see that my predictions are getting close to realization…..well not good but rather interesting……(read more)…..

There is a theory in international relations called the linchpin theory….basically, it is an occurrence, a small occurrence, that could explode into a society ending situation……a couple of good examples are WW1 and the Arab Spring…..

Source: Looking for the linchpin – Legationes

By Brandon Turbeville Regardless of which side you choose to listen to in the Armenian/Azeri conflict, one thing everyone can agree on is that the ceasefire is not holding. The regularly ignited di…

Source: Regional Conflict Brewing in Azerbaijan, Armenia

The events in this situation are starting to accelerate…..the question is….how much damage will this event do?  Could this becoming a wider conflict?  Will the major powers become involved?

Could this be the linchpin I have been looking for or is it just a minor thing that will get worked out in the end?

Little Things Become Big Things

Ever since Russia’s invasion and conflict with Georgia (the country not the state) in 2008 I have been watching the region of the Caucasus Mountains closely.  I feel that if a larger conflict is to bloom then this region has the greatest potential to become the next linch pin for war…..

Source: Looking For The Linchpin – In Saner Thought

I know that I link to this article a lot…..but it is one of my better analysis (plus it is a small ego boost to link to it often)…..

This region is volatile and we in the West hear very little about it….a shame because it could be our next “Big One”…..

I bring this up again because there has been yet another incident where one nation in the region is at odds with another…..this tie it is Azerbaijan and Armenia……

Two Azeri servicemen have been killed in border clashes with the Armenian army, Azerbaijan’s defense ministry said on Monday.

The Armenian defense ministry accused the Azeri side of triggering fresh confrontation along the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan and around Nagorno-Karabakh, which lies inside Azerbaijan but is controlled by majority ethnic Armenians.

Clashes between the two ex-Soviet nations and around separatist Nagorno-Karabakh have stoked fears of a wider conflict breaking out in the South Caucasus, which is crossed by oil and gas pipelines.

In an account that was disputed, Azerbaijan said an officer and a soldier were killed on Sunday when Armenian forces tried to cross the state border.

Armenia accused Azeri forces of attacking several villages near the border between the two countries, wounding one civilian at the weekend

Sporadic clashes between the two have thwarted international efforts, led by France, Russia and the United States, to end the dispute, which broke out in the dying years of the Soviet Union and killed about 30,000 people.

(Reuters)

Back in December 2015 there was another clash between the two nations…..

Armenia says a ceasefire with neighbouring Azerbaijan over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh no longer exists, describing frequent skirmishes at the front line as “war”.

Artsrun Hovhannisyan, a spokesman of Armenia’s defence ministry, said on Tuesday that Azerbaijan was using “all existing armaments: tanks, howitzers, and anti-aircraft artillery” against Armenian soldiers in the disputed region.

“What we have today is a war,” said Hovhannisyan. “We must use the word ‘war’ as there is no ceasefire anymore.”

Azerbaijan responded with counter-accusations, blaming Armenia for the recent escalation.

(Al-Jazeera)

There have been a war of words between the two since the collapse of the USSR…..and now it is becoming more harmful than in the past….will this lead to the “Big One” that could involve the rest of the world since we are setting ourselves up to “good guys versus bad guys”, a bi-polar world, yet again.

Heavy fighting has broken out between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces along the front lines of the separatist Nagorno-Karabakh region, reportedly killing at least one child in what one official called the worst clashes since 1994. Officials from each former Soviet republic blamed the other Saturday for the fighting that began overnight, the AP reports. Both Armenia and Azerbaijan said they had inflicted heavy losses on the other. David Babayan, a spokesman for Nagorno-Karabakh’s separatist president, said a boy of about 12 was killed and two other children wounded in a Grad missile barrage by Azerbaijani forces. Azerbaijan says 12 of its soldiers were killed and around 100 Armenian forces were killed or wounded.

Vladimir Putin has urged all sides to cease firing and “show restraint,” a Kremlin spokesman says. Nagorno-Karabakh, a region in Azerbaijan, has been under the control of local ethnic Armenian forces and the Armenian military since 1994. The Armenian Defense Ministry says Azerbaijan used aircraft, tanks, and artillery to try to make inroads into Nagorno-Karabkh and that “Azerbaijani authorities bear all responsibility for the unprecedentedly supercharged situation.” The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry says the fighting began when Armenian forces fired mortars and large-caliber artillery shells across the front line.

Could a recent meeting between Kerry and the Azeri president just added fuel to this fire?

The Nagorno-Karabakh situation, whereby a territory that the UN recognizes as part of Azerbaijan is under the control of an unrecognized autonomous government backed by Armenia, has sat unresolved and rarely spoken of for 22 years. The resumption of hostilities this weekend, however, comes just days after Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, calling for an “ultimate resolution” to the conflict.

Kerry made it clear he wanted a diplomatic settlement, but that still doesn’t mean his comments didn’t play a role in precipitating these new hostilities, if it convinced Aliyev that the US isn’t going to allow the status quo to remain in place.

The Nagorno-Karabakh situation is complex, but the US interest seems primarily in resolving it to spite Russia, seeing Russia as using the standoff as leverage to keep itself tied to both nations, particularly Armeni

Finally a report issued by the International Crisis Group can help my reader understand this situation….more so than trying to get reliable information from the MSM…….

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has long been regarded as a tinderbox in the heart of the South Caucasus – with serious implications for the wider region including Russia, Turkey and Iran. Each spring, when low-level violence tends to break out, policymakers worry about incidents spiraling out of control due to miscalculation or escalation by leaders in […]

Source: What’s Behind the Flare-up in Nagorno-Karabakh? | Crisis Group

It appears  that my paper about the region is looking more and more accurate….this could well be the next linch pin that plunges the world into darkness….yet again.

Heavy weekend fighting continued into Monday, with reports of at least three more Azeri soldiers killed and Nagorno-Karabakh reporting that they’ve had 20 fighters killed and 72 wounded in the past three days of fighting.

Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan warned a group of foreign ambassadors today that the war could have “unpredictable and irreversible consequences, right up to a full-scale war,” cautioning that both Russia and Turkey could quickly become involved.

Hopefully calmer heads will prevail.