Armenia’s prime minister asked the U.S. to address Turkey’s alleged use of American-made F-16 jets in support of Azerbaijan in its recent conflict against Armenia in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, a report claimed on Sunday.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan spoke by telephone with U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien on October 1, the New York Times reported on Sunday. During the call, Pashinyan said he raised the issue of Turkey allegedly using U.S.-made fighter jets to bolster Azerbaijan’s cause:
‘The United States,’ Mr. Pashinyan said in an interview ‘needs to explain whether it gave those F-16s to bomb peaceful villages and peaceful populations.’ He said that Mr. O’Brien had ‘heard and acknowledged’ his concerns and promised to set up a phone conversation between the Armenian leader and President Trump.
Armenia posted photos to an official online government platform on September 30 allegedly depicting the wreckage of an SU-25 Armenian warplane shot down by a Turkish F-16 on September 29. Turkey and Azerbaijan have denied Armenia’s accusation that a Turkish F-16 shot down an Armenian jet.
In addition to air support, Armenia accused Turkey last week of sending Azerbaijan Syrian mercenary fighters to bolster its ground forces.
Clashes broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan on September 27 in their disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Immediately afterward, both countries accused the other of initiating the attacks and declared martial law; fighting between the two sides has continued to escalate since then.
The spiraling conflict threatens to further draw in regional powers Turkey and Russia, although Moscow has so far tried to remain neutral in the dispute, officially urging both sides to agree to a ceasefire. Russia maintains a military base in Christian Armenia and considers the country a strategic ally but remains on good terms with Baku. Turkey considers Muslim Azerbaijan a sibling state because of its ethnically Turkish population and has vowed to provide total support for the country in its fight to retake Nagorno-Karabakh.
The breakaway territory legally belongs to Azerbaijan but is inhabited by a majority of ethnic Armenians. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Armenian separatists seized Nagorno-Karabakh from Azerbaijan. The seizure sparked a war that killed at least 30,000 people. An uneasy ceasefire in 1994 ended the war, but the two sides have fought sporadically over the region ever since.
Last week’s fighting marked the conflict’s most significant escalation since the 1994 ceasefire. Both sides deployed heavy artillery to Nagorno-Karabakh and accused the other of firing directly into their territory, beyond the disputed region. Should the ongoing unrest evolve into all-out war, it would disrupt not only peace in the South Caucasus but also the flow of energy through the region, whose pipelines transport natural gas and oil to global markets.