Nagorno-Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian military authorities have warned Baku against further escalating the situation at the volatile line of contact after accusing Azerbaijani forces of targeting, for the first time since the 1994 ceasefire, positions deep inside Stepanakert-controlled territory with artillery fire.
The Defense Ministry of Nagorno-Karabakh issued a statement on Friday, claiming that its advanced units managed to repulse another commando raid attempted by Azerbaijani forces overnight, killing two and wounding several Azerbaijani troops. It said Armenian forces sustained no losses in the engagement.
It further suggested that Azerbaijan’s armed forces fired 5,500 shots from firearms of different calibers and also used mortars of different calibers and gun-howitzers to shell Armenian positions on March 10-11.
“It is remarkable that last night the enemy used artillery fire not only against Armenian positions located in the direction of Akna (Aghdam), but also territories that are located at quite a distance from the line of contact. This is unprecedented since the signing of a ceasefire agreement in May 1994. One can draw one conclusion from this: the adversary has adopted a tactic aimed at destabilizing the situation in the conflict zone, which is fraught with unpredictable consequences,” the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Ministry said.
“In order to suppress the activity of the enemy advanced units of the Defense Army resorted to purposeful punitive measures. Armenian forces confidently control the situation along the entire perimeter of the frontline.”
Earlier, the military authorities in Stepanakert also denied reports in Azerbaijani media that Armenian armed forces fired at civilians in Azerbaijan’s Aghdam district.
Meanwhile, Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman Artsrun Hovannisian denied Azerbaijani reports about Armenian casualties in recent days. Azerbaijan claims up to 15 Armenian servicemen were killed and some Armenian military equipment was destroyed by Azerbaijani forces in the conflict zone in recent days. Baku also accuses the Armenian side of violating the truce.
Talking to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am), Hovannisian linked the latest escalation of tensions in the Karabakh conflict zone with the March 10 meeting of Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow during which the two leaders also discussed issued related to the Karabakh settlement process.
“Azerbaijan always escalates the situation at around the time of such high-level meetings,” he said, denying reports about some Armenian positions in Karabakh being seized by Azerbaijani forces.
The current escalation comes amid stalled internationally mediated negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the protracted dispute.
President Sarkisian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev last met in Bern, Switzerland, in December for talks organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Minsk Group and its American, Russian and French co-chairs. The meeting brought little calm to the region where dozens of soldiers on both sides are killed annually in ceasefire violations.