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Boys play on a street next to a building destroyed by war in Shushi, Nagorno-Karabakh, in 2015. Photo: Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

Fighting has continued for the second day over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, with at least 59 soldiers and civilians reported dead.

The backstory: The mountainous region of around 150,000 people is populated mainly by ethnic Armenians but lies within the borders of Azerbaijan. The countries have both claimed the territory since the collapse of the Soviet Union, fought a war over it from 1992-1994, and stood on the precipice of further conflict since.

  • The violence is the worst the region has seen since 2016, and began with coordinated air and missile attacks on Sunday from Azerbaijan, which claimed Armenian forces had been preparing an attack (Armenia denies that).
  • Both sides have signaled that they are prepared for war, including by declaring martial law. Calls for calm have come from Brussels, Washington, Moscow and Tehran.

They both have powerful friends.

  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has vowed to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Azerbaijan, and today demanded that Armenia end its "occupation" of Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia claims Turkey is providing Azerbaijan with weapons, including drones.
  • Armenia's economy and security are heavily dependent on Russia, a fellow Orthodox Christian state. Vladimir Putin spoke yesterday with Armenia's prime minister and called for an end to the fighting. Russia's foreign minister also spoke with his Turkish counterpart.

Where things stand: Previous skirmishes, though numerous, have left the stalemate largely unaltered. So has a peace process overseen by the U.S., France and Russia.

Worth noting: "According to the casualty lists so far, most of those killed hadn’t even been born when the conflict first started," writes Foreign Policy's James Palmer.

Go deeper

Erdoğan finally congratulates Biden on election win

Photo: Adem Altan/AFP via Getty Images

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan congratulated President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday for his projected victory in the 2020 election.

Why it matters: Erdoğan was one of the major leaders who had yet to congratulate Biden, in addition to Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

Pope Francis denounces European governments' migrant response

Pope Francis adresses refugees at the Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) in Mytilene on the island of Lesbos on Sunday. Photo: Louisa Gouliamaki/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis criticized European countries' response to migrants and asylum seekers during his visit to a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos Sunday.

Why it matters: The pope said "migration is a humanitarian crisis that concerns everyone," but little had changed in the global response to displaced peoples since his first visit to Lesbos five years ago, per a transcript of his remarks. "Human lives, real people, are at stake. ... let us stop this shipwreck of civilization!"

Chris Cuomo accuser: On-air "hypocrisy" spurred report

Journalist Chris Cuomo. Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images

A woman who accused fired CNN journalist Chris Cuomo of sexual misconduct said Sunday she decided to come forward after learning of his comments about women who made similar accusations about his brother. He denies her allegations.

Why it matters: Her attorney Debra Katz said in a statement that she heard "the hypocrisy" of his on-air words about his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and was "disgusted by his efforts to try to discredit these women," so "retained counsel to report his serious sexual misconduct against her to CNN."