One Armenian soldier was shot dead on Friday in continuing skirmishes along the main Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact” around Nagorno-Karabakh.
Nagorno-Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian Defense Army said the 20-year-old conscript, Andranik Sargsian, was fatally wounded in “the northeastern section” of the frontline in what it called a ceasefire violation by Azerbaijani forces.
The area in Karabakh’s northern Martakert district was already the scene of deadly fighting earlier this month. At least four Azerbaijani soldiers were killed there in two separate firefights blamed by the warring sides on each other.
The incidents highlighted the persisting risk of another all-out war for the Armenian-controlled disputed region which seems to have increased in recent months. The U.S., Russian and French diplomats trying to broker a peaceful solution to the Karabakh dispute strongly condemned them and called for “additional actions necessary to strengthen the ceasefire” last week.
Significantly, the truce violations were reportedly discussed by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov during their talks in Washington on Wednesday. A Pentagon spokesman said Gates expressed concern and stressed the need to strengthen the ceasefire regime.
The Karabakh Armenian military says that Azerbaijani forces open fire on its positions in various sections of the frontline on a daily basis. The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry has claimed the opposite, saying that the skirmishes are provoked by the Armenian side.