Five Azerbaijani soldiers were killed early on Tuesday as deadly fighting along the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan continued for the second consecutive day.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said they died early in the morning in what it described it as an Armenian commando raid on its frontline positions in the western Gazakh district bordering Armenia’s Tavush province.
“The Armenian side suffered casualties and was forced to retreat,” the ministry said in a statement cited by Azerbaijani news agencies.
Armenia’s Defense Ministry confirmed deadly fighting in the area but denied any cross-border incursions by its forces stationed there. It said they only “neutralized” an Azerbaijani “sabotage group.” “Nobody was killed or wounded on the Armenian side,” added a ministry statement.
The incident occurred not far from a border area where three Armenian soldiers were killed in similar circumstances on Monday morning. Official Yerevan reacted furiously to their deaths, with Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian lashing out at Baku during a news conference with the visiting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“Not contenting itself with daily Azerbaijani ceasefire violations on the line of contact with Nagorno-Karabakh, they are trying to extend tension to and escalate the situation on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border as well,” Nalbandian charged. “This is jeopardizing the negotiating process and regional stability. Azerbaijan will be responsible for all consequences of that.”
Reacting to the latest Azerbaijani casualties on Tuesday, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov also said that the fatal shootings are complicating international efforts to broker a peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict. “Unfortunately such incidents will occur until the conflict is resolved,” he told journalists in Baku, according to the Trend news agency.
Mammadyarov also announced that he and Nalbandian will meet in Paris on June 18 in the presence of the U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-chairing the OSCE’s Minsk Group on Karabakh. He said he will make it clear to his Armenian counterpart that “further maintenance of the status quo is unacceptable.”
Clinton likewise spoke in Yerevan of upcoming talks between Mammadyarov and Nalbandian. “Later this month the foreign ministers will be meeting, and we are going to be putting ideas forth because we think it’s in everyone’s interests to focus on achieving a breakthrough solution and avoiding the escalation of violence,” she said.
Clinton expressed serious concern over the growing truce violations. “The use of force will not resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” she said.