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Soldiers of the Karabakh Defense Army. Photo: Narek Aleksanyan/AFP via Getty

Calls for an unconditional ceasefire in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh have been rejected by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and by Turkey — which has reportedly sent weapons and even Syrian mercenaries to aid its ally Azerbaijan.

Why it matters: The risk of a full-fledged war appears to be growing after five days of clashes and more than 100 deaths. Armenia claims it shot down an Azeri drone Thursday night near its capital, Yerevan.

What they're saying: President Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin — the "Minsk Group" co-chairs — released a joint statement Thursday calling for an "immediate cessation of hostilities.”

  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan replied: "Given that the USA, Russia and France have neglected this problem for nearly 30 years, it is unacceptable that they are involved in a search for a ceasefire.”
  • Armenia has raged over Turkey's intervention and also withdrawn its ambassador from Israel. As Axios' Barak Ravid scooped, Azerbaijan is using Israeli weapons including “kamikaze drones” in the fighting.
  • Armenia has a powerful military ally in Russia. But Russia also has deep ties to Azerbaijan and is trying to maintain its mediator role.

What to watch: Erdoğan’s involvement in the conflict is a “wildcard,” the International Crisis Group’s Olesya Vartanyan told the “Global Dispatches” podcast, as it's unclear just how far he’s willing to push things.

  • It's also now "much harder to mediate because there’s nothing to offer through talks — all negotiations have broken down," she says, including after previous skirmishes in July.

Background: 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.

Go deeper

Dec 17, 2018 - World

Russia is winning its war of disinformation

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

U.S. intelligence says Russia sought to disrupt the 2016 and 2018 elections and sow discord. Regardless of what Robert Mueller does, Russia did it — and is still at it.

The big picture: Multiple high-stakes, aggressive federal investigations were spawned by an initial FBI probe of Russian government efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election. And fallout from Russian meddling, including Democratic talk of impeaching President Trump, is likely to remain a dominant political issue as Democrats take over the House 17 days from now.

Air quality alerts issued as California fires threaten more sequoias

The Windy Fire blazes through the Long Meadow Grove of giant sequoia trees near the Trail of 100 Giants in Sequoia National Forest, near California Hot Springs, on Tuesday. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

Two wildfires were threatening California's sequoia trees over overnight, hours after authorities issued fresh evacuation orders and warnings, along with air quality alerts on Wednesday.

The big picture: Officials in the Bay Area and the San Joaquin Valley issued air quality alerts as smoke from the Windy and KNP Complex fires resulted in hazy, "ash-filled" skies from Fresno to Tulare, the Los Angeles Times notes.

Asymptomatic Florida students exposed to COVID no longer have to quarantine

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during a September news conference in Viera, Fla. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced Wednesday an emergency order allowing parents to decide whether their children should quarantine or stay in school if they're exposed to COVID-19, provided they're asymptomatic.

Why it matters: People infected with COVID-19 can spread the coronavirus starting from two days before they display symptoms, according to the CDC. Quarantine helps prevent the virus' spread.