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Armenian Defense Chief Visits Karabakh


Nagorno-Karabakh - Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian meets soldiers on frontline duty, 16Dec2014.

Nagorno-Karabakh - Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian meets soldiers on frontline duty, 16Dec2014.

Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian travelled to Nagorno-Karabakh on Tuesday following a fresh escalation of fighting around the disputed territory which left at least eight Armenian and Azerbaijani soldiers dead.

Ohanian met with Bako Sahakian, the Karabakh president, and General Levon Mnatsakanian, the commander of Karabakh’s Defense Army, at the start of the trip. Sahakian’s office gave no details of the meeting, saying only that it focused on military cooperation between “the two Armenian states.”

Armenia’s Defense Ministry, for its part, issued no statement on the meeting as of Tuesday evening.

Ohanian’s trip was apparently connected with the latest upsurge of fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces deployed along “the line of contact” east and north of Karabakh. Four Armenian soldiers were killed and 16 others wounded there on Friday in an Azerbaijani artillery strike.

The Azerbaijani military admitted suffering four casualties in the following days.

The Karabakh army on Tuesday identified six other Azerbaijani soldiers which it claimed were also killed on Sunday by retaliatory fire from the Armenian side. “The Azerbaijani military continues to conceal its real losses in order to mislead the domestic public and cover up the failure of its criminal tactic,” it alleged in a statement.

The Defense Ministry in Baku categorically denied the allegations. It also urged Azerbaijani media not to disseminate the “enemy propaganda.”

Military authorities in both Stepanakert and Yerevan reported, meanwhile, that truce violations on the Karabakh frontline and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border have decreased markedly since Monday.

“The situation is relatively stable now, even though the enemy continued to violate the ceasefire regime overnight,” Sahakian’s spokesman, Davit Babayan, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “But the enemy is getting an adequate response and fortunately we suffered no more casualties.”

In a related development, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with James Warlick, the U.S. co-chair of the Minsk Group on Karabakh, in New York on Monday. Warlick said on his Twitter page that they discussed ways to “coordinate next steps” in the stalled peace process.

Warlick and fellow mediators from Russia and France hosted fresh talks between the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers in New York late last week. They said afterwards that despite the renewed escalation of tensions the two sides agreed to continue preparations for an Armenian-Azerbaijani summit expected later this year.

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