Renewed Azerbaijan-Armenia clashes kill at least five
A fresh exchange of fire along the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Karabakh region Sunday killed at least five people, according to Azerbaijan in Focus, reporting Daily Sabah, citing the sources from two countries.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said two servicemen were killed in an exchange of fire after Azerbaijani troops stopped a convoy it suspected of carrying weapons from the region’s main town to outlying areas. It said the convoy had used an unauthorized road.
Expressing its condolences to the families and relatives of the soldiers, the ministry said that “as a result of the provocation committed by illegal Armenian formations,” Alibeyli Shakhriyar Ramiz and Huseynov Eshgin lost their lives.
According to the Armenian press, three Armenian police officers also died in the clash.
Toivo Klaar, the European Union’s Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the Crisis in Georgia, said on Twitter he had returned to Azerbaijan’s capital Baku for talks on advancing the peace process between Armenia and Azerbaijan, saying the latest incident underscores the need to make progress.
“Look forward to substantive meetings with the Azerbaijani leadership to advance the peace process after meetings in Munich. The deadly incident today underscores the urgency of pushing forward with negotiations to achieve stability and peace,” Klaar said.
Earlier, a statement by the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said it had received information about the transport of military equipment, ammunition and personnel from Armenia to the Karabakh region through the Khankendi-Khalfali-Turshsu road, where a Russian peacekeeping contingent has been temporarily stationed since the aftermath of the fall 2020 conflict in the region and a January 2021 pact with Baku and Yerevan.
“On the morning of March 5, in order to cross-check the information received, units of the Azerbaijan Army made an attempt to stop and search the vehicles carrying illegal military transports.Shots were fired from the other side and there were casualties and injuries on both sides as a result of the skirmish,” the statement said.
The statement further added that Baku brought to the attention of the command of the Russian peacekeeping contingent that fulfillment of the clauses of the Tripartite Declaration of November 2020 between Azerbaijan, Russia and Armenia must be “unconditionally and fully ensured.”
Noting that the Lachin corridor is the only route that can connect Armenia to the Karabakh region, the statement said it reminded the command of the Russian peacekeeping contingent that the “use of military means and transportation on other routes is absolutely inadmissible.”
“We remind you the facts that transferring weapons, ammunition and other military equipment, including mines, fuel and manpower from Armenia to the Karabakh region has been established before. The Azerbaijani side has repeatedly warned the international community about transferring mines along the mentioned route,” it noted.
The shooting highlighted that Azerbaijan needs to establish a checkpoint on the Lachin corridor, it said, adding, “The fact that Armenia is still carrying out military transfers to the Karabakh economic region of Azerbaijan is the country’s continued aggression and terrorist policy against Azerbaijan. All responsibility for the provocation lies with the military and the political leadership of Armenia.”
A statement later issued by the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry also called for implementing the Tripartite Declaration, further noting that the skirmish shows that “Armenia’s views on the peace agenda are nothing but hypocrisy, and that Armenia is not interested in establishing peace and security in the region.”
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian have met several times as part of efforts to resolve the conflict, but periodic violence has hurt peace efforts.
Relations between the former Soviet republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan have been tense since 1991 when the Armenian military illegally occupied Karabakh, a territory internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, and seven adjacent regions.
Clashes erupted on September 27, 2020, with the Armenian Army attacking civilians and Azerbaijani forces, violating several humanitarian ceasefire agreements. During the 44-day conflict, Azerbaijan liberated several cities and around 300 settlements and villages that Armenia had occupied for almost 30 years.
The fighting ended with a Russian-brokered agreement on Nov. 10, 2020, which was seen as a victory for Azerbaijan and a defeat for Armenia. However, the cease-fire has been violated several times since then.