By Emil Danielyan
Armenia and Azerbaijan have reported fresh exchanges of fire between their forces which have disrupted a regular international monitoring of ceasefire around Nagorno-Karabakh and killed at least one soldier.
The Baku-based ANS television said on Thursday that an Azerbaijani serviceman was shot dead in the westernmost section of the heavily militarized Armenian-Azerbaijani frontier. The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry confirmed the report, alleging an Armenian truce violation. There was no immediate comment from the Armenian side.
The incident was reported from an area that has seen an upsurge in cross-border skirmishes this month. Both conflicting parties have reported casualties among their troops, blaming each other for the fighting that followed the collapse of a crucial Armenian-Azerbaijani summit held in France on February 10-11.
Tension has also risen along the main Armenian-Azerbaijani line of contact east of Nagorno-Karabakh. The latest Azerbaijani casualty was reported the day after a disruption of ceasefire monitoring by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in the northeastern section of the Karabakh frontline.
The Armenian Defense Ministry said on Wednesday that OSCE field observers accompanied by Karabakh officials came under Azerbaijani gunfire as they were about to carry out what has become a routine procedure. “Due to a lack of security guarantees from the Azerbaijani side, Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk postponed the monitoring,” the ministry spokesman, Colonel Seyran Shahsuvarian, told RFE/RL, referring to the longtime head of the OSCE military mission in the conflict zone.
The Azerbaijani side claimed the opposite, however. The Interfax news agency quoted an Azerbaijani military spokesman as saying that Kasprzyk “heard shots fired from the Armenian section of the border and ordered that monitoring be cancelled.” The OSCE official has not yet commented on the conflicting statements from Baku and Yerevan.
Meanwhile, Azerbaijan’s dovish Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov was quoted by ANS as saying that the latest fighting only demonstrates that the Karabakh conflict is far from being frozen. “Azerbaijani and Armenian soldiers are killed every week,” Mammadyarov said, adding that the conflict should therefore be resolved “as soon as possible.”