Moscow, 29 September 2020 (dpa/MIA) – Armenia’s military claimed on Tuesday that a Turkish air force F-16 fighter jet shot down an Armenian Su-25 warplane in Armenian airspace, killing the pilot, an accusation that Turkey promptly denied, as a regional conflict with Azerbaijan intensified.
“A Turkish air force F-16 fighter jet shot down an on-duty Su-25 jet of the Armenian air force in Armenian airspace,” Armenian military spokesperson Shushan Stepanyan said in comments carried by state news agency Armenpress.
Armenia has been claiming that Turkey’s military has been assisting Azerbaijan’s military offensive into the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region in recent days.
Turkey has denied this and refuted the accusation of having shot down the Armenian warplane.
“The claim that Turkey shot down an Armenian fighter jet is absolutely untrue,” said Fahrettin Altun, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s communications director.
“Armenia should withdraw from the territories under its occupation instead of resorting to cheap propaganda tricks,” Altun added.
Azerbaijan began a military offensive at the weekend into Armenian-held territory in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. More than a hundred people, including several civilians, have been reported killed.
It is the bloodiest fighting in years between the former Soviet republics, which fought a war for the disputed region in the late 1980s and early 1990s as they transitioned into independent countries amid the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Nagorno-Karabakh, internationally recognized as part of predominantly Muslim Azerbaijan, has been controlled by Christian Armenian separatists for decades, with a fragile peace treaty in place since the 1990s.
Impoverished Armenia has relied heavily on backing from Russia, with which it has a shared Christian heritage. Oil-rich Azerbaijan is supported by predominantly Muslim Turkey, with close ties between their ethnic Turkic populations.
Russia called on Turkey on Tuesday to join efforts to restore a ceasefire between Azerbaijan and Armenia, according to comments by Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov carried by state media.
“We are calling on all countries, especially our partners like Turkey, to do everything possible to convince the opposing parties to cease fire and return to peaceful settlement of this long-standing conflict through political and diplomatic means,” Peskov said.
Russia is looking to “determine the next steps together with [its] partners in the OSCE,” Peskov said, referring to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, in which Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia and Turkey are participating states.
Erdogan’s communications director, Altun, said Turkey hoped that a UN Security Council meeting later on Tuesday would “establish a strong foundation for a solution.”
“Moving forward, Turkey will be fully committed to helping Azerbaijan take back its occupied lands and to defending their rights and interests under international law,” Altun said in a statement on Twitter.
Azerbaijan has outright rejected media reports that Syrian fighters were being sent by Turkey. It has also refuted claims about the use of Turkish military equipment.
Hikmat Hajiyev, a foreign policy aide to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, said on Tuesday that reports about the use of Syrian fighters as “propaganda and fake news from Armenia,” and “absolutely baseless and groundless.”
“Why should Azerbaijan bring others to its sovereign soil?” he asked.
While acknowledging the close ties between Baku and Ankara, he denied any military support from Turkey.
“Azerbaijan is an independent country and Azerbaijani armed forces are capable of fulfilling any mission. Turkey’s intervention or participation is simply disinformation and propaganda by the Armenian side,” he said.
He insisted that Azerbaijan was committed to a peaceful resolution of conflict, but Armenia’s “aggression must stop,” adding that “we are tired of the Armenian side cheating the international community and cheating the negotiating process.”