Armenia says 4 killed in border flare-up with Azerbaijan
February 13, 2024 04:15 PM
Arch-foes Armenia and Azerbaijan accused each other Tuesday of opening fire on their volatile border, with Yerevan saying Azerbaijani forces killed four of its soldiers and Russia urging restraint.
Yerevan and Baku have fought two wars -- in 2020 and in the 1990s -- over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, which Azerbaijan recaptured in a lightning offensive last September.
The deaths on Tuesday came several days after the re-election in Azerbaijan of President Ilham Aliyev, in power for two decades in the oil-rich Caspian country.
"Four were killed and one injured as a result of fire on Armenian positions from Azerbaijani troops," the Armenian defence ministry said in a statement.
The fighting occurred near the village of Nerkin Hand in the southern region of Siunik.
Azerbaijan's border guards said this was a "riposte" to a "provocation" on Monday by Armenian troops that Baku said had injured one Azerbaijani soldier.
Baku's defence ministry said Armenian troops had opened fire twice late on Monday on Kokhanabi village in the Tovuz region.
Armenia denied the allegation, saying the claim "does not align with reality".
- Moscow urges 'restraint' -
Russia -- which used to be the main mediator of the conflict but has in recent years been bogged down by its Ukraine invasion -- urged calm and called the violence "worrying".
"We call on both sides to show restraint to avoid any acts that the opposite side could see as provocative," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Armenia has distanced itself from its historic ally Russia since Azerbaijan's offensive, with Yerevan angry that Moscow's peacekeeping force in Karabakh did not act during Azerbaijan's takeover.
Baku has denied having territorial claims to Armenia after having regained Karabakh and ruled out a fresh conflict with Yerevan.
But Aliyev is suspected of trying to wrest control over Armenia's Siunik region to link Azerbaijan to the exclave of Nakhchivan, which is also bordered by Iran and Turkey.
Aliyev's election win last week was all but guaranteed after his country's historic victory over Armenian separatists last year.
Internationally mediated peace talks have so far failed to produce a breakthrough between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Armenia's Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan proposed last month to Azerbaijan to sign a non-aggression pact, pending a comprehensive peace treaty between the neighbours.
Pashinyan and Aliyev had previously said a peace agreement could have been signed by the end of last year.
Almost the entire ethnic-Armenian population of Karabakh -- more than 100,000 people -- fled for Armenia following Baku's takeover of Karabakh, sparking a refugee crisis.