Armenia’s prime minister addresses the nation on Oct. 14, 2020. Official photo

Amid a flurry of diplomatic activity, fighting continued in Karabakh, and according to the Armenian defense ministry, Azerbaijani forces attempted fresh ground offensives. In his address to the nation, prime minister Nikol Pashinyan acknowledged that Armenia’s situation was a difficult one, but renewed his determination to fight to victory. In his interview the previous day, Pashinyan predicted that fighting would continue as long as Azerbaijan had Turkey’s support.

According to the Kremlin, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Vladimir Putin to discuss Karabakh for the first time since the start of the war, and both are said to have agreed on the need for “humanitarian cease-fire” agreed on October 10, as well as resumed negotiations on Karabakh resolution. Putin also raised the participation of “armed groups from the Middle East” in the Karabakh fighting – a euphemism for some 1,500 Turkish-trained and deployed mercenary force that has taken part in the Karabakh offensive – as a key matter of concern.

The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo similarly expressed concern over Turkey’s role in the Karabakh fighting as he responded to a question from the Christian Broadcasting Network, which noted that “Christians in the U.S. are very concerned about Christians in the region” and referenced presidential candidate Joe Biden’s criticism of the Trump Administration’s passive stance. Pompeo said that the U.S. focus was on return to cease-fire and resumption of negotiations.

Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov reiterated the long-discussed outline of what such negotiations would focus on. Referred to as the “Madrid Principles” or sometimes the “Lavrov Plan,” the proposal calls for the Armenian withdrawal from five former Azerbaijani districts to the south and east of the Soviet-era Karabakh autonomous borders in exchange for security guarantees and talks on the future internationally-recognized Karabakh status. Earlier in the day, Pashinyan again described this proposal as unacceptable, while he also praised Russia, France and U.S. for efforts to reinstate the cease-fire.

In his speech, the Armenian prime minister also acknowledged that over the past two weeks Armenian forces had to retreat both in the north and south of Karabakh, the areas that have been the focus of the Turkish-Azerbaijani offensive. In recent days, the focus of the ground fighting appeared to have shifted to Mardakert area in the northeast of Karabakh, where the Defense Army reported aerial and artillery attacks that also hit a local hospital. Both Martuni and Hadrut were reported to be under fire as well, with Stepanakert continuing to enjoy a reprieve from shelling.

As of October 14, the Defense Army published names of 535 servicemen, reservists and volunteers killed in fighting since September 27, 285 of them 18 to 20 years old draftees. The Armenian government-linked Karabakh Records project also cataloged names of more than 600 Azerbaijani military dead that have appeared in social media. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimated at least 119 Syrian fighters killed in Karabakh as of October 13.