International

‘U.S.-made F-16 jets are being used against Armenians’

When Nikol Pashinyan, Armenia’s Prime Minister, spoke by telephone on Thursday with President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, he raised a delicate issue: Why is nothing being done to stop a longtime U.S. ally, Turkey, from using U.S.-made F-16 jets against ethnic Armenians in a disputed mountain region?

Mr. Pashinyan’s call to Mr. Robert O’Brien followed an eruption of heavy fighting in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, a remote territory at the centre of the most enduring and venomous of the “frozen conflicts” left by the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The breakaway enclave, legally part of Azerbaijan but controlled by Armenians for the past three decades, has seen many military flare-ups over the years. But the current fighting, Mr. Pashinyan said in a telephone interview, has taken on a far more dangerous dimension because of Turkey’s direct military intervention in support of Azerbaijan, its ethnic Turkic ally.

On Sunday, news reports said, the forces of Armenia and Azerbaijan, both former Soviet republics, exchanged rocket fire, with missiles falling on Azerbaijan’s second largest city, Ganja, and on the Armenian-controlled capital of Nagorno-Karabakh. Each side accused the other of targeting .

In a statement on Sunday, the International Committee of the Red Cross denounced “a surge in attacks using heavy explosive weaponry on populated areas,” which it said “is taking a deadly toll on civilians.”

The conflict has set off alarms about the risks of a wider war and put the U.S., with its large and politically influential Armenian diaspora, in the uncomfortable position of watching Turkey, a vital NATO ally, deploying F-16 jets in support of Armenia’s enemies.

‘Heard, acknowledged’

“The U.S.,” Mr. Pashinyan said, “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 Mr. Trump.

That opportunity to rally the U.S. to Armenia’s side vanished just a few hours later when Mr. Trump announced that he had tested positive for the coronavirus.

But Mr. Trump’s health issues, analysts say, have only accentuated his administration’s disengagement from a conflict that offers no easy diplomatic victories. It has confounded decades of efforts to resolve a dispute that has left Armenians in control of not only Nagorno-Karabakh but also large swaths of Azerbaijani territory outside the breakaway enclave.

Mr. Pashinyan declined to say whether Armenia might be ready to surrender any occupied Azerbaijani land as part of a possible peace settlement, insisting that this was not up to him but a matter for the leaders of Nagorno-Karabakh, a nominally independent entity ruled by ethnic Armenians. NY Times

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Printable version | May 18, 2021 3:44:58 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/us-made-f-16-jets-are-being-used-against-armenians/article32776199.ece

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