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Azerbaijan Says Pipeline Targeted In Fighting; Armenia Rejects Accusation


Smoke billows above buildings in Nagorno-Karabakh in Stepanakert amid ongoing fighting in the breakaway Azerbaijani region.

BAKU/YEREVAN -- The Prosecutor-General's Office of Azerbaijan said on October 6 that a pipeline has been targeted in fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces in and around the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, an accusation immediately rejected by Armenia.

Rockets were fired at the part of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline passing through the Yevlakh region, the prosecutor-general's office said, according to RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service.

The attempt to damage the pipeline, an important component of Europe's energy security, occurred at about 9 p.m. local time on October 6, the office said. It was prevented as a result of measures taken by the Azerbaijani Army, it said, adding that a civilian was killed.

Armenia's Defense Ministry rejected the accusations.

"Azerbaijan's reports of Armenian troops' attempt to strike the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline are outright lies," Armenian Defense Ministry press secretary Shushan Stepanian wrote on her Facebook page. "We have repeatedly said that we do not view oil and gas infrastructure as our target."

Earlier on October 6 there was a barrage of rocket fire on Nagorno-Karabakh’s capital, Stepanakert, and a "large-scale attack" by Azerbaijani forces along the southern front, Stepanian said.

Azerbaijan said Armenian forces targeted several of its regions.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev spoke by phone October 6 with Iranian President Hassan Rohani, the president's press service said in a statement. Aliyev told Rohani that 27 Azerbaijani civilians had been killed, more than 170 injured, and more than 900 houses damaged or destroyed in recent fighting.

Rohani expressed his country's concern over the conflict across the entire line of contact separating Armenian and Azerbaijani forces and expressed hope that the conflict would be resolved peacefully as soon as possible.

Aliyev also noted during the call that part of the territory along the Iranian-Azerbaijani border has come under the control of Azerbaijan, and there are plans to deploy Azerbaijani border troops and border infrastructure in the area.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said on October 6 in an interview with the French AFP news agency that Turkey's "full support" had motivated its ally Azerbaijan to reignite the fighting.

"While it is true that the leadership of Azerbaijan has been actively promoting bellicose rhetoric for the last 15 years, now the decision to unleash a war was motivated by Turkey's full support," Pashinian said.

"Without Turkey's active engagement this war would not have begun," he added, speaking to AFP in the Government House in the heart of Yerevan.

Pashinian, who became prime minister in 2018 after leading protests against the ruling party, condemned Azerbaijan for waging a "terrorist war against a people struggling for their freedom."

He said the current conflict has seen the "active engagement of terrorist groups from the Middle East in the conflict zone," describing the role of Armenian forces as a "counterterrorism operation."

Since fighting erupted on September 27, the two sides have reported at least 240 deaths including dozens of civilians. The actual toll is believed to be much higher as both sides claim to have inflicted heavy military casualties. Each side has accused the other of targeting civilians.

The hostilities have increased concern that a wider conflict could drag in regional power Turkey, which is Azerbaijan's closest ally, and Russia, which has a defense pact with Armenia.

On October 5, Russia, France, and the United States -- the co-chairs of the so-called Minsk Group from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which has spearheaded peace efforts over Nagorno-Karabakh since the early 1990s -- reiterated their call for an immediate cease-fire in and around Nagorno-Karabakh.

Brushing off calls for a cease-fire, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met with Aliyev in Baku on October 6, vowing to deepen the country's involvement as it criticized the Minsk Group.

"There should be no doubt that, when needed, we will act like one state. Turkey is Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan is Turkey,” Cavusoglu tweeted on October 6.

Cavusoglu said in Baku that any cease-fire proposal was "no different" from previous ones and would not address what he described as violations of Azerbaijan's territorial integrity.

Azerbaijan has demanded that Armenian forces withdraw from Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding Azerbaijani territories, saying that it would not end military action until its demands are met. Those conditions would be nearly impossible for Armenia to accept.

With reporting by Milliyet, AFP, dpa, Interfax, and Reuters
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