An Armenian soldier was shot dead on Friday in continuing skirmishes along the main Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact” around Nagorno-Karabakh.
Military authorities in Karabakh said the 19-year-old Grigor Shakhkanian died in the disputed territory’s northeast in a ceasefire violation committed by Azerbaijani forces. Another Karabakh Armenian soldier was lightly wounded there on Thursday.
The area has for years been the most volatile section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani frontline. More than a dozen soldiers from both sides were killed there last year.
The warring sides have reported more deadly skirmishes there this year. One Azerbaijani soldier was wounded last month in what Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian Defense Army said was a botched incursion into its positions at that frontline section.
Truce violations in the Karabakh conflict zone have become more frequent over the past year amid a lack of decisive progress in Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks and Baku’s regular threats to solve the conflict by force. A senior European Union diplomat warned last week that they could escalate into more serious fighting.
“I’m not talking about deliberate actions but we can not exclude that any of these incidents at some point escalates beyond control,” Peter Semneby, the EU’s outgoing special envoy to the South Caucasus, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
The latest deadly incident came the day before fresh talks between Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s presidents that will be hosted by their Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, in the Black Sea city of Sochi. Russia and other mediating powers hope that the parties will move closer to signing a framework peace accord proposed by them.
Parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian sounded on Thursday cautiously optimistic about the outcome of the Sochi talks. “I am convinced that there will be a positive movement at the March 5 meeting,” he told the “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily.