Tension in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict continued to rise on Friday as four Armenian soldiers were killed in what military authorities in Stepanakert said was an Azerbaijan rocket attack on their positions in northeastern Karabakh.
A short statement by the Karabakh Defense Army said the conscripts -- Norayr Khachatrian, Robert Mkrtchian, Harut Hakobian and Karen Shahinian -- suffered fatal injuries after Azerbaijani forces fired rockets from Turkish-made TR-107 multiple-launch systems. It said that an unspecified number of other Armenian soldiers were wounded as a result.
“An investigation is underway to clarify to details of the incident,” it said in a statement. It gave no further details.
In another statement released later in the day, the Defense Ministry accused Azerbaijan of deliberately heightening tensions and warned that this “criminal tactic” could lead to “developments fraught with unpredictable consequences.” Baku will be solely responsible for them, it said.
Earlier in the day the Karabakh Armenian military said Azerbaijani troops stationed along “the line of contact” east and north of the disputed territory breached the ceasefire on the night from Thursday to Friday with TR-107 systems, mortars, grenade launchers and automatic weapons.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry, for its part, alleged in the morning Armenian truce violations along “the line of contact” and Azerbaijan’s border with Armenia. Skirmishes at the western section of the heavily militarized border have again intensified since Thursday.
The Armenian side suffered the latest combat casualties in Karabakh just hours after the U.S., Russian and French mediators expressed serious concern at the fresh upsurge in fighting and urged both sides to de-escalate the situation.
The mediators are due to hold a trilateral meeting with the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers in New York this weekend in another attempt to kick-start the stalled Karabakh peace process. The deadly incident in Karabakh could derail their efforts.