What would seem to be a local war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over a mountainous land of little strategic value is taking on greater importance because of its potential to draw in bigger powers like Russia and Turkey.

The seemingly intractable tensions have their origins in the Soviet collapse 30 years ago when Karabakh, a predominantly ethnic Armenian enclave inside Azerbaijan, declared independence. Azerbaijan still claims the territory, and Armenia backs the enclave.

Russia has a mutual defense agreement with Armenia that could take effect if the fighting were to spread to Armenia proper, and Armenia has reported some shelling on its territory. Turkey, a NATO member, is allied with Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan’s military issued a statement on Monday saying that its objectives were to shift the status quo by seizing territory from the enclave. “Azerbaijani units carry out combat operations to destroy the enemy and liberate our occupied lands,” the statement said.

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