The Armenian military accused Azerbaijan of again heightening tensions in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone and pledged to strike back hard on Friday after two Armenian soldiers were killed near Karabakh.
Karabakh’s Armenian-backed Defense Army said the conscripts, Vahe Vanoyan and Mikael Torosian, were fatally wounded late on Thursday when Azerbaijani troops violated the ceasefire at a southern section of “the line of contact” around the disputed territory. The army gave no details of the incident, saying only that it has launched an investigation.
Armenia’s Defense Ministry strongly condemned the truce violation and accused Baku of ignoring international mediators’ appeals. “Despite being mindful of the fact that this action will not remain without consequences and the guilty will be punished, Azerbaijan’s military-political leadership is once again opting for an escalation of the situation,” it said in a statement.
The statement said that Azerbaijani attacks on Armenian frontline positions are “intensifying by the day” despite efforts by the U.S., Russian and French mediators to ease tensions on the Armenian-Azerbaijani frontlines and kick-start the Karabakh peace process.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to these accusations. It claimed earlier in the day that the two Armenian soldiers were killed during a commando raid on an Azerbaijani army unit.
The incident occurred less than two months after the most recent upsurge in fighting along “the line of contact” and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. On September 23, three female residents of Armenian border villages were killed by mortar shells fired from nearby Azerbaijani army positions.
Two days later, four Armenian soldiers died near Karabakh in an Azerbaijani artillery strike which triggered retaliatory action by Karabakh Armenian forces. At least four Azerbaijani soldiers were killed in the following days.
The American, Russian and French diplomats co-heading the OSCE Minsk Group blamed both warring sides for that escalation and condemned them for increasingly using mortars and other heavy weapons in their skirmishes. The mediators also urged Azerbaijan to accept their long-standing proposal to set up a mechanism for international investigations of ceasefire violations. The Armenian side has repeatedly backed the idea.
The warring sides reported no major armed incidents in October and beginning of this month. The mediators visited Yerevan, Stepanakert and Baku late last month. In an ensuing joint statement, they said that the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed to meet in December and try to revive the search for a mutually acceptable settlement.