In the shadow of the Ukraine war, heavy fighting broke out again between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the South Caucasus, killing dozens. Both sides reported the deaths of about 50 of their soldiers on Tuesday. For Armenia, however, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said in the capital Yerevan that these were not final figures.

The fighting between the warring ex-Soviet republics began at night and continued occasionally during the day. Towards evening the artillery fire calmed down somewhat, the Armenian Ministry of Defense announced. The EU, the United Nations and the USA intervened and urged an end to the fighting. On Wednesday, the Security Council in New York will deal with the conflict between the two ex-Soviet republics, the Russian agency TASS reported, citing UN sources.

When the fighting broke out, Yerevan said that Azerbaijani troops had attacked Armenian positions in three places with artillery and large-caliber weapons. In Baku, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said that a large-scale attempt at sabotage by Armenians had triggered the fighting.

Particularly explosive: Only a few months ago, when signing new contracts, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, described Azerbaijan as a “reliable energy supplier”. The contracts were signed in order to become less dependent on Russian gas supplies after Vladimir Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine – now an EU partner is shooting at its neighbor.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been at war with each other over the Nagorno-Karabakh region for decades. In autumn 2020, Armenia had lost a war against its neighbor. As a result, the country had to relinquish control of most of Armenian-majority Nagorno-Karabakh. At that time, a Russian peacekeeping force was stationed in the region to protect the ceasefire. However, according to Armenian information, this time it was not the exclave that was attacked, but positions in the heartland of Armenia.

Because of the tense situation, Pashinyan phoned Russian President Vladimir Putin that night. The head of government asked for help from the CSTO military alliance, the Armenian television announced. The defense alliance of the former Soviet republics of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan discussed Tuesday evening. Putin took part in the video conference. It was only decided to send CSTO General Secretary Stanislaw Sass to investigate the situation in the conflict area, as reported by the Belarusian agency Belta.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for an end to the fighting. Blinken called on Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to “cease hostilities,” the US State Department said. In a conversation with Pashinyan, according to the ministry, Blinken emphasized “the need for the withdrawal of the armed forces”. French President Emmanuel Macron also spoke to Aliyev and called for an end to the fighting.

Russia is traditionally seen as Armenia’s protecting power in the Caucasus. The Kremlin said Moscow was looking to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis. The Russian leadership currently has no interest in becoming militarily involved in a secondary theater of war, as it sees it. Russia is tied down by the war of aggression in Ukraine that has been going on for six months. Most recently, Russian forces in the neighboring country suffered a painful defeat.

The EU also called on Yerevan and Baku to negotiate. A complete and lasting ceasefire is needed, wrote EU Council President Charles Michel on Twitter. “There is no alternative to peace and stability – and there is no alternative to diplomacy to ensure it.” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Michel was in touch with the leaders of the two countries. The EU is determined to mediate further. EU Special Representative Toivo Klaar will travel to both countries immediately.

In addition to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Iran, which borders on Armenia and Azerbaijan in the south, also offered itself as a mediator. Turkey, as an ally of Azerbaijan, in turn accused Armenia of “provocations”. Yerevan should focus on peace negotiations with Baku, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu wrote on Twitter.