Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said on Monday that three more Azerbaijani soldiers have been killed in “heavy fighting” with Armenian forces which continued over the weekend despite serious concerns voiced by the United States, Russia and France.
A ministry statement said that they died “at different sections of the frontline.” It did not specify those locations or give other details of the deadly incidents.
Meydan TV, an independent Azerbaijani media outlet, reported that one of the killed soldiers, Neman Ahmadzade, served in Azerbaijan’s western Gadabay district bordering Armenia.
The Azerbaijani army reported another combat casualty within its ranks on Saturday, the day after 4 Armenian soldiers were killed and 16 others wounded near “the line of contact” east of Karabakh in a reported Azerbaijani artillery strike.
The Armenian military pledged to retaliate strongly for the deaths of those soldiers as well as three civilian residents of Armenian border villages shelled by the Azerbaijani side on Thursday. It said that it will now use heavier artillery against Azerbaijani troops.
Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenian-backed Defense Army, meanwhile, claimed on Monday to have killed and wounded more than a dozen Azerbaijani soldiers in “punitive” operations carried out over the weekend. It also denied Baku’s claims that seven Armenian soldiers were killed on the night from Sunday to Monday.
In a separate statement, the Karabakh Armenian army said that Azerbaijani forces fired nearly 150 mortar shells and 24 rockets on its frontline positions over the past 24 hours.
The fighting continued unabated despite international mediators’ strong condemnation of the latest ceasefire violations and calls for the conflicting parties to de-escalate the situation. In that regard, the U.S., Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group urged Baku on Saturday to accept their long-standing proposal to set up a mechanism for international investigations of truce violations.
“Armenia has agreed to discuss the details of the mechanism, and we urged Azerbaijan to do the same,” they said in n a joint statement on Friday’s talks in New York between the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers. The co-chairs were present at the talks.
Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov gave afterwards no indications that Baku will stop effectively rejecting the idea. “The creation of a mechanism for investigating armed incidents can be considered only if it does not serve to preserve the existing status quo … and does not justify [Armenian] occupation,” he told the official Azertag news agency.
Mammadyarov said the mediators should also come up with a timetable for Armenian withdrawal from the “occupied Azerbaijani territories.”