Azerbaijani troops have captured several villages in fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh, President Ilham Aliyev said on October 3 after another day of clashes with ethnic Armenian forces over the breakaway region.
Aliyev said seven villages in the Terter, Jabrail, and Fuzuli districts had been “liberated,” and declared he would restore the historical name of Madagiz, another village Aliyev said had been captured, RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service reported.
"From October 3, 2020, I am restoring the historical name #Madagiz. From now on it will be called #Sugovushan," Aliyev said on Twitter.
Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman Artsrun Hovhannisian did not confirm that villages had been captured but said there had been heavy fighting.
“The duration of the continuous battle was six to seven hours,” Hovhannisian said, according to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. “These were rather heavy and difficult battles, and it is clear that all this is not easy for our troops.”
He said positions change frequently during intense fighting, adding, “Who specifically, at what moment and which side is in what position, I do not think that this is such an important fact. We have repeatedly noted that we will not talk about positions and lines of defense separately.”
Hovhannisian said the Armenian forces shot down drones and destroyed armored vehicles. He said the enemy “lost” hundreds of fighters on October 3, but there was no independent confirmation.
Both sides of the conflict regularly exaggerate losses inflicted on their opponent as part of parallel information war.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said in an address on October 3 that the scale of the attack was unprecedented.
"We are experiencing, perhaps, the most decisive moment in our millennial history," Pashinian said, adding: "Today, more than ever, we are determined to defend our identity, our homeland, our right."
"As of now, we already have sustained significant human losses -- both military and civilian. Large numbers of military equipment are no longer usable, but the adversary still has not been able to resolve any of its strategic issues," he said.
Pashinian said he spoke by phone on October 2 with commanders and other officers who are on the front line. He said about 150 high-ranking Turkish military personnel “are at the command posts of various levels of the armed forces of Azerbaijan and are in charge of military operations.” Pashinian was referring to allegations Turkey has provided material military support to Azerbaijani forces.
The fighting sides have reported nearly 200 deaths, including many civilians in a week of fighting. This includes 19 Azerbaijani civilians, according Prosecutor-General Kamran Aliyev.
The clashes have taken place along much of the so-called Line of Contact that separates the ethnic Armenian forces from Azerbaijan's troops.
There are concerns that the violence could grow into a full-blown war between the archfoes and draw in regional powers Russia and NATO-member Turkey.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on October 3 rejected “superficial” demands for a cease-fire. Such demands “will not be useful this time,” Cavusoglu said, according to state-run Anadolu news agency.
Turkey has vowed to provide Azerbaijan with continued support and has conditioned a cease-fire on Armenia’s withdrawal from Nagorno-Karabakh.
The fighting on October 3 was a continuation of a flare-up of violence in the separatist region that began on September 27.
Since then Armenian and Azerbaijani forces have shown little willingness to halt the violence, but each recently sent tentative signals about proposed peace talks.
In an interview with Al Jazeera broadcast earlier on October 3, Aliyev urged Russia, the United States, and France -- the so-called Minsk Group that has spearheaded peace efforts over Nagorno-Karabakh since the early 1990s -- to continue efforts to resolve the conflict.
“I think these three countries should continue working together on settling the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, but on the condition that they remain neutral,” Aliyev said in the interview.
Hikmat Haciyev, foreign affairs aide to the Azerbaijani president, told journalists on October 3 that Azerbaijan has “clearly and unequivocally expressed its constructiveness in negotiations process” and called on the international community to impose more political and diplomatic pressure on Armenia to withdraw its troops.
The comments came one day after the Armenian Foreign Ministry said it welcomed a joint call the previous day from the Minsk Group for an immediate cessation of hostilities between forces fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Also on October 2, Armenia said it was willing to engage in peace talks through the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) as international leaders continued to call for an immediate end to fighting with Azerbaijani forces over the breakaway region Nagorno-Karabakh.
The Minsk Group has called on the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan to "commit without delay to resuming substantive negotiations, in good faith and without preconditions, under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group cochairs."
Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as Azerbaijani territory, but it is controlled by ethnic Armenian separatists with close ties to Yerevan. Armenian forces hold control over seven regions adjacent to Nagorno-Karabakh.
Azerbaijan and Armenia have been locked in a conflict over the mountainous region since the waning years of the Soviet Union. They fought a war that ended in 1994 with an uneasy cease-fire and an estimated 30,000 killed.