President Ilham Aliyev visited Azerbaijani troops stationed near “the line of contact” east of Nagorno-Karabakh on Wednesday amid continuing fighting with Armenian forces that left another Azerbaijani soldier dead.
In a statement, Aliyev’s press office said that he handed gifts to several soldiers serving in the mostly Armenian-controlled Agdam district and and held an extraordinary meeting there with Azerbaijan’s Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov and other top military officials. It said they briefed Aliyev on “the overall situation on the frontline.” The Azerbaijani leader gave them “corresponding instructions,” the statement added without giving details.
Aliyev, who regularly threatens to forcibly end the conflict, has made no public statements since the July 31 upsurge in fighting around Karabakh in which the Azerbaijani army suffered significant casualties.
The warring sides blame each for the escalation which has prompted serious concern from the international community. They both reported on Wednesday continued skirmishes on the Karabakh frontline and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.
News reports from Baku said one Azerbaijani soldier killed and another wounded at unspecified frontline sections. The Karabakh Armenian claimed that the killed serviceman, Sahil Tarlanli, was part of an Azerbaijani commando squad that launched an unsuccessful attack on one of its outposts southeast of Karabakh late on Tuesday.
In a separate statement, Karabakh’s Defense Army also said that Armenian warplanes are carrying out flights near “the line of contact” due to lingering tensions there. The Azerbaijani military reported similar flights late last week.
Armenia’s Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian further highlighted the tensions when he visited Stepanakert on Wednesday. Ohanian met with Bako Sahakian, the Karabakh president, and General Movses Hakobian, the Defense Army commander. Sahakian’s office said they discussed “issues related to army building” but did not elaborate.
The skirmishes also continued to have a severe impact on civilian residents of border villages in northeastern Armenia and western Azerbaijan. The mayors of two Armenian villages, Movses and Aygepar, said their communities came under intense fire from nearby Azerbaijani army positions overnight.
“They stopped firing after our troops shot back,” Andranik Aydinian, the Aygepar mayor, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) by phone. According to Aydinian and Movses’s Ararat Avalian, the small arms fire damaged village houses but did not injure anyone.
Azerbaijani news agencies reported, meanwhile, that two teenage boys living in Azerbaijani border villages were wounded by Armenian gunfire and hospitalized as a result.
The fresh truce violations come just days before separate talks which Russian President Vladimir Putin is due to hold with Aliyev and Armenia’s Serzh Sarkisian in Sochi. It is still not clear whether Aliyev and Sarkisian will hold a face-to-face meeting there.
Armenian Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian said on Wednesday that the Sochi talks should help to de-escalate the situation. “The Azerbaijanis seems to have understood in the last few days that they can’t talk to us and achieve a solution to the conflict from the position of force,” he claimed during a visit to the northern city of Vanadzor.
Echoing statements by other Armenian leaders, Abrahamian also said the Armenian-Azerbaijani armed incidents are unlikely to degenerate into a full-scale war.