As of October 26, Azerbaijan and Turkey kept their operational initiative in the war with Armenia in the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Their forces continue developing their offensive in southern Karabakh by trying to remove Armenian forces from of the Lachin corridor area in order to cut off the link between the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and Armenia itself.
Attempts of Armenian forces to retake the initiative and counter—attacks near the Iranian border did not lead to any breakthrough results. In turn, the Armenian Defense Ministry was forced to admit that it in fact has lost the south of Karabakh. Nonetheless, according to its version of events, the towns of Fuzuli and Hadrut are still not controlled by Azerbaijan. This goes contrary to videos from the ground.
At the same time, the Azerbaijani advance on the town of Qubadli faced particular difficulties and in fact the town remains contested. Further development of the Azerbaijani forces’ advance poses a direct thereat to the town of Shushi, near the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic capital, Stepankert, and the Lanchin corridor. Both these directions are considered as strategically vital by the Armenian leadership and it will likely contribute every possible effort to prevent this scenario.
On October 25, the General Prosecutor’s Office of Armenia announced that it has factual evidence that numerous operators of Turkish Special Forces took part in clashes in Karabakh. According to the report, since August, Turkish personnel have been training the Azerbaijani military and participating in the conflict. Earlier it became known that after the joint Turkish-Azerbaijani drills in August a large number of Turkish military specialists, service members and equipment remained in Azerbaijan.
The presence of Turkish F-16 fighter jets at the airbases of Ganja and Qabala were confirmed by satellite images. The Armenian side insists that the Turkish F-16s were involved in the shooting down of Armenian aircraft and providing air cover for Azerbaijani combat drones bombing Armenian positions in Karabakh.
Turkish weapon supplies and the contribution of Turkish intelligence and top officers to the planning and employment the Azerbaijani advance in Karabakh are another open secret. The presence of members of Turkish-backed Syrian militant groups in the combat zone area was also confirmed by photo and video evidence.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev insists that the Turkish military and Syrian militants do not participate in the war while simultaneously making loud statements about victories of Azerbaijani forces. During an operational meeting with the leadership of the Ministry of Defense and commanders of units on the front line, Aliyev claimed that his forces eliminated or captured about 300 Armenian battle tanks and destroyed 6 S-300 air defense systems. The Azerbaijani leader also stated that Armenia received modern weapons every day somehow forgetting to mention various Turkish and Israeli weapon systems employed by the Azerbaijani military.
Meanwhile, Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov met with Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun in Washington and agreed on the establishment of another humanitarian ceasefire, the third one since the start of the war on September 27.
Nonetheless, it does not look like it will allow for any strategic breakthrough as the previous two ceasefires collapsed immediately after their formal start. Moreover, the current situation on the frontline does not sit well with the goals of both sides.
The Turkish-Azerbaijani bloc still seeks to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh question by military means, dismantling the Armenian republic there and pushing the Armenians out of the region. At the same time, for the Armenians the current configuration of the frontline, even if the conflict is temporarily frozen, will be a source of permanent threat to the vital infrastructure of Karabakh. In these conditions, the resumption of the Azerbaijani advance will be almost inevitable.
The Iranian leadership is also skeptical regarding the diplomatic settlement of the conflict. Iran has deployed large forces to the border with Karabakh and launched large-scale military drills in the area.
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*All posts on behalf of South Front are made by Gordon Duff