An Armenian soldier was killed by Azerbaijani forces in Nagorno-Karabakh early on Friday just hours after the United States, Russia and France urged the conflicting parties “in the strongest possible terms” to avoid ceasefire violations.
The Karabakh Defense Army said the 20-year-old soldier, Erik Grigorian, was shot dead in an overnight Azerbaijani commando attack on its frontline positions in Karabakh’s north. It said Azerbaijani forces also violated the ceasefire regime by firing 240 mortar shells and several rockets at various sections of “the line of contact” around Karabakh.
In a statement, the Armenian-backed army added that its frontline troops are taking “punitive actions to suppress the aggressive enemy activity.”
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry claimed the opposite, however, saying that Armenian forces themselves attacked Azerbaijani positions and suffered “big losses” as a result. It said one of its servicemen, a warrant officer, was lightly wounded in the firefight.
According to news reports from Baku, two Azerbaijani soldiers were killed on the Karabakh frontline earlier this week. The Azerbaijani military confirmed only one of those combat casualties: Fariz Novruzov. He too was a warrant officer serving on a contractual basis.
Armenian and Azerbaijani commando units mainly consist of contract soldiers.
Late on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and a senior French official issued a joint statement expressing serious concern at this year’s “significant escalation in violence” on the Armenian-Azerbaijani frontlines. “We appeal to the sides in the strongest possible terms to reduce tensions and protect lives,” they said.
Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian condemned the ensuing deadly incident in Karabakh as “Baku’s response” to the mediating powers. He insisted that Kerry’s and Lavrov’s appeal was primarily addressed to the Azerbaijani side.
“Who is threatening to use force and restart war? Armenia? We’ve never done that,” Nalbandian told reporters in Belgrade. He argued that Baku also continues to reject the mediators’ proposal to set up a mechanism for international investigations into truce violations in the conflict zone.
Nalbandian further announced that the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan will meet later this month. But he gave no specific dates or venues for the meeting which the mediators hope will revive the Karabakh peace process.