French President Emmanuel Macron has spoken of his concern at “rash and dangerous” statements from Turkey as clashes over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region go on for a fourth day.
France was “extremely concerned by the warlike messages” from Turkey, he said during a visit to Latvia.
Turkey says it is “fully ready” to help ally Azerbaijan recover the enclave, controlled by ethnic Armenians.
The UN Security Council has called for an end to the fighting.
However, there was further violence on Wednesday and Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry vowed the “legitimate operation” would continue until Armenian troops left Nagorno-Karabakh,
Meanwhile, Armenia’s defence ministry released a picture of an Armenian SU-25 jet that it claimed had been shot down by a Turkish F-16 on Tuesday. Turkey has rejected the allegation as “cheap propaganda” and Azerbaijan says Armenia is lying about the cause.
What has happened on the ground?
Dozens of soldiers and some civilians have died since violence broke out on Sunday in this decades-old dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
The enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh is recognised internationally as part of Azerbaijan but has been run by ethnic Armenians since a 1988-94 war between the two former Soviet republics. Although Armenia backs the self-declared republic it has never officially recognised it.
On Wednesday, Azerbaijan published footage of what it said was the destruction of two “enemy” tanks and said an Armenian battalion had fled the area around Tonashen.
Armenian reports said three civilians had been killed in Azerbaijani air attack on the town of Martakert in Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenpress said seven civilians and 80 service personnel had been killed since the fighting began.
What does France say?
In recent weeks Nato allies France and Turkey have been on opposite sides in a dispute over energy claims in the Eastern Mediterranean. They have also been at odds over the power struggle in Libya.
Now, President Macron has warned Turkey about “warlike comments… which essentially remove any inhibitions from Azerbaijan in what would be a reconquest of Nagorno-Karabakh. That we will not accept.”
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He said he would talk to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday evening and US President Donald Trump on Thursday. Both Azerbaijan and Armenia are former Soviet republics, and while Russia has a military base in Armenia it also has good relations with Azerbaijan.
The French president appeared to promise greater support to Armenia in the coming days: “I say to Armenia and to the Armenians, France will play its role.”
The conflict is also likely to be discussed at this week’s EU leaders’ summit.
What is Turkey’s response?
Turkey has said it will do “what is necessary” to back Azerbaijan, and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu accused the French president of, in effect, supporting occupation.
But there has been international concern that Turkey may back a bigger military operation. Mr Cavusoglu has already said Turkey will support Azerbaijan “both on the field and at the negotiation table” and a presidential aide has spoken of Turkey’s commitment “to helping Azerbaijan take back its occupied lands”.
In further comments on Wednesday, he said: “Azerbaijan is fighting to protect its own lands. Where in the world are the occupied and occupier treated the same?”
Russia has offered to mediate in the conflict but Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has said talk of a summit is not on the table “at a time of intensive hostilities”.
Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliev has pointed out that there is nothing to talk about, arguing that Mr Pashinyan has publicly declared Nagorno-Karabakh part of Armenia.
Nagorno-Karabakh – key facts
- A mountainous region of about 4,400 sq km (1,700 sq miles)
- Traditionally inhabited by Christian Armenians and Muslim Turks
- In Soviet times, it became an autonomous region within the republic of Azerbaijan
- Internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, but majority of population is ethnic Armenian
- Self-proclaimed authorities are not recognised by any UN member, including Armenia
- An estimated one million people displaced by war in 1988-94, and about 30,000 killed
- Separatist forces captured some extra territory around the enclave in Azerbaijan
- Stalemate has largely prevailed since a 1994 ceasefire
- Turkey openly supports Azerbaijan
- Russia has a military base in Armenia