Fostering a proxy war in in Armenia may serve Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s needs, but it’s an appalling echo of the genocide Turkey committed against Armenians a century ago.

On Sept. 27, Azerbaijan resumed its conflict with Armenia, accusing it of unprovoked attacks. At issue is the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, a mountainous territory of 150,000 people (mostly ethnic Armenians) that is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but claimed and governed by Armenia since an earlier war.

The Azeris are plainly the aggressors: They not only outnumber the Armenians 3-to-1, they’ve been modernizing their military with a huge assist from the Turks.

So Armenia’s destruction of a few of Azeri helicopters and tanks was likely the response to an incursion, as it claims.

Erdogan’s backing of Azerbaijan is a useful distraction from his sagging domestic economy, but it turns a long-standing local conflict into a bigger geopolitical competition. Armenia can resist only with the backing of Russia, which has been fueling that side of the arms race — which means it’s just a step or two to direct conflict between Moscow and Ankara.

“We are a step away from a large-scale war,” says Olesya Vartanyan of the International Crisis Group, a nonprofit dedicated to preventing deadly conflicts.

While the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, NATO, Pope Francis and others have called for a ceasefire, Erdogan fans the growing fire, offering Azerbaijan unwavering support.

But it’s the history that makes this beyond horrific: Ankara still refuses to acknowledge its genocide of nearly 1.5 million Armenians at the end of the First World War, and now it’s bent on slaughtering countless more.

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