Hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan have resulted in rockets fired at civilian targets and deaths among the fighters. Saturday past, a long standing cease fire between the two republics was broken.
The two republics were created during the Stalinist era of the USSR. Peaceful coexistence was the rule until the USSR began to crumble. In 1988 a referendum was held in the predominantly Armenian province of Azerbaijan and the area voted to join Armenia. The Azerbaijani government registered its disapproval by sending in troops to the area.
A six year war between the two republics ensued. A cease fire signed in 1994 has held until this past week. The hostilities threaten to escalate with both sides blaming the other for breaking the peace. The past violence saw over 30 000 people killed.
While the fighting appears to be between two former Soviet republics, there may be more to the situation. Turkey is a vocal supporter of Azerbaijan and, at the same time, refuses to recognize Armenia. Russia is a supporter of Armenia but sells arms to both countries. Both countries share borders with the warring states. Russia supports President Assad in Syria while Turkey supports the rebels.
The area is unstable politically and often peace is enforced with gunfire. Mid March saw five Bangladeshi and Azeri men shot to death as they tried to cross illegally from Iran. Two more were taken into custody. The area is often transited by smugglers of illicit drugs.
Adding to the tensions between the countries is the occupation of a large part of Azerbaijan by Armenian troops. The tenuous cease fire of more than twenty years was meant to be temporary with interested countries helping to find a peaceful solution.
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