Understanding the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh

The current armed conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia appears to have reached a new level of brutality.

Turkey's foreign minister claims Armenia committed "war crimes" by attacking residential areas inside Azerbaijan - while Armenia's Prime Minister has accused Turkey and Azerbaijan of a joint "international terrorist attack".

World leaders are calling for an immediate ceasefire - but understanding why the two countries are fighting may be the key to ending the war.

Three decades ago, some 30,000 people were killed in a bloody conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. 

Today another war rages over that same ground with both sides blaming each other. 

Nash Zeynalov created the Azerbaijan-New Zealand friendship society and is keen for Kiwis to hear his country's side. 

"Azerbaijan is fighting on its own land, to liberate its own land. Azerbaijan is not claiming any country's territory," Zeynalov explained. 

Armenian-Kiwi Serj Tankian told Newshub his people have been living on those lands for thousands of years. 

"They're not gonna give it up, they're protecting it, so they're defending those lands," he said. 

The area is roughly the size of greater Auckland and internationally it's recognised as part of Azerbaijan, yet 90 percent of the people living there are ethnic Armenian, who govern themselves.

Tankian says the region - they call Artsakh - has been in union with Armenia since the break up of the old Soviet Union. 

"The people of Nagorno-Karabakh wanted their independence, they had a referendum, Azerbaijan did not comply and came back in a brutal manner they fought for their independence," he said. 

The two countries might be neighbours - but Tankian says they are worlds apart.

"You're talking about two countries, one a progressive democracy, Armenia, and two, Azerbaijan a petro-oligarchic, corrupt, family-led post-Soviet nation - there is no comparison."

But the war does bring up the tricky question of race and religion.

Armenia's Prime Minister claims paid militants from Syria and Libya, and even troops from Pakistan have joined the fight against Christian Armenia - something Zeynalov denies. 

"Azerbaijan does not need any mercenaries - and it has enough personal and reserve forces in its conflict against Armenia," he said. 

But some Nato members, including French President Emmanuel Macron, have accused Turkey of backing its old ally Azerbaijan in this new war.

Turkish President Erdogan has been vocal in his support for Azerbaijan - and if Turkish troops actually became involved on the ground - Armenians fear the war could turn into something much nastier.

"The way that our people feel fighting Azerbaijan and Turkey it's an existential threat, we know that they're not going to just stop. If we're unable to defend ourselves and the world needs to know that, that this is not just a war, we can't afford to lose," Tankian said. 

Zeynalov wants Kiwis to know his country has a right to the territory, pleading others to do research before making quick judgements.

"It's simply self-defence to get rid of those anti-terrorist destructive forces on our own territories and for New Zealanders, there is a lot of information floating around on the media. Please do read, please pay attention, please verify your sources before you jump into any conclusions."  

As hundreds of people, including civilians, die each day, an immediate ceasefire can't come soon enough.