News reports said an Azerbaijani soldier was shot dead early on Monday in what the Defense Ministry in Baku said was an Armenian attack on Azerbaijani army positions in the Fizuli district southeast of Karabakh. “The Armenians retreated, suffering losses,” the APA news agency said, citing the ministry.
The Karabakh Armenian military insisted, however, that its forces have suffered no fresh casualties since the apparently worst Armenian-Azerbaijani ceasefire violation in over two years that was reported late last week.
Four Armenian and one Azerbaijani servicemen were killed in what the authorities in Stepanakert and Yerevan described as an overnight Azerbaijani assault on a Karabakh Armenian army outpost in the disputed region’s northeast. Exchanges of automatic and sniper gunfire along the main Armenian-Azerbaijani Line of Contact east and north of the disputed region appear to have intensified since then.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry claimed, however, it is the Armenians that fired at its forces from automatic rifles and machine guns in various sections of the heavily fortified frontline.
The Karabakh military on Monday also identified the four Armenian conscripts who were killed on the night from June 18-19. The incident occurred just over one day after the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan met in Saint Petersburg, Russia for fresh peace talks hosted by their Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev.
Official Yerevan portrayed it as a further indication that the Azerbaijani leadership is “doing everything” to scuttle the Karabakh peace process mediated by Russia, the United States and France. Officials in Baku dismissed the claim.
“Such skirmishes have taken place frequently of late,” a spokesman for the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry, Eldar Sabiroglu, told APA on Sunday. “Armenian army units retreated this time, suffering big losses.”
Arman Melikian, a Yerevan-based former NKR foreign minister, called on Monday for an official inquiry into the deadly clash. “First of all, we must clarify why Azerbaijani special forces tried to break through Armenian positions in that area,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “Was it a weak link or there are some strategic facilities there? To what extent were our forces prepared to face such an attack?”
Echoing statements by other Armenian politicians and pundits, Melikian also said the reported Azerbaijani attack was aimed at intimidating the Karabakh Armenians and prodding the international community to seek more Armenian concessions to Azerbaijan. “I think Azerbaijan and Turkey are in a great hurry to solve the problem. They understand that if a breakthrough in their favor doesn’t come within the next year, it will never come,” he said.