At least one Azerbaijani soldier has been killed and three others wounded near Nagorno-Karabakh in the latest upsurge in fighting with Armenian forces, military authorities in Baku said on Saturday.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said that the soldier, Elshan Mammadov, died in an “enemy attack on our positions” on Thursday at an unspecified section of “the line of contact” around Karabakh.
In a statement, the ministry used, however, a plural form to “offer our deep condolences to the families of the dead soldiers” and pledge that the Azerbaijani military “will retaliate for our martyrs this time as well.”
It also said that the three other Azerbaijani servicemen suffered “minor shrapnel injuries.” However, the pro-government news website Vesti.az described their health condition as “unsatisfactory.”
The ministry statement cited by the APA news agency claimed that four Armenian soldiers died in northeastern Karabakh on Thursday evening as a result of retaliatory fire opened by Azerbaijani troops from automatic weapons, mortars and rocket systems.
Karabakh’s Armenian-backed Defense Army insisted that its soldiers were killed in an unprovoked rocket attack.
The deadly fighting was reportedly just hours before the Foreign Ministers Edward Nalbandian of Armenia and Elmar Mammadyarov of Azerbaijan met in New York in the presence of the U.S., Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. An Armenian Foreign Ministry statement said Nalbandian raged at Mammadyarov at the meeting, accusing Baku of deliberately escalating the situation in the Karabakh conflict zone.
Nalbandian also reaffirmed Armenia’s acceptance of the international mediators’ renewed calls for the conflicting parties to agree to international investigations of truce violations on “the line of contact” and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. He said Baku opposes such investigations because it wants to “continue its provocations” on the frontlines.
Mammadyarov was reported to reject the accusations. Haqqin.az quoted him as telling Nalbandian and the mediators that the Armenians themselves are heightening tensions and obstructing peace talks with “various provocative steps.”
The mediators, for their part, reiterated their serious concerns about the latest escalation. According to Nalbandian’s press office, they said that a “further escalation of the situation is inadmissible.”
The Minsk Group co-chairs hoped that the New York talks will pave the way for another meeting of the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents. They have been pushing for such a summit in an effort to revive the stalled peace process.