Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said on Thursday that he may still hold a planned meeting with his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov this month despite the latest upsurge of ceasefire violations around Nagorno-Karabakh.
“Armenia has never avoided meetings both at the ministerial and highest levels,” he told reporters. “As I said a few days ago, it’s possible that there will be a meeting of the foreign ministers in July.”
The U.S., Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group said in a June 19 statement that they plan to meet Nalbandian and Mammadyarov soon to discuss “modalities of the forthcoming work.” They issued a joint statement at the end of their latest tour of the Karabakh conflict zone which was aimed at reviving the Armenian-Azerbaijani peace process.
The planned ministerial meeting was called into question by Tuesday’s skirmishes along the Karabakh “line of contact” which left an Azerbaijani woman and her 2-year-old granddaughter dead. The victims lived in Alkhanli, an Azerbaijani village adjacent to the frontline.
The Azerbaijani government says that Armenian forces deployed there in the deliberately targeted Alkhanli and its civilian residents. Karabakh’s Armenian-backed military strongly denies this, saying that its frontline troops fired back after coming under rocket fire from an Azerbaijani army position in the village. It has accused Baku of using civilians as a “human shield.”
The Karabakh Defense Army publicized on Wednesday video purportedly showing rockets fired from Alkhanli.
“If you put a cannon in a house backyard and open fire from it, you must realize that there will be a response,” Artsrun Hovannisian, the Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “Especially given that we now have quite powerful video surveillance systems in the air and on the ground which can easily detect that.”
The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said on Thursday, however, that there are no Azerbaijani military facilities in Alkhanli. “The village was deliberately shelled by Armenian forces,” the ministry spokesman, Hikmet Hajiyev, was quoted by Azerbaijani news agencies as saying.
Hajiyev said on Wednesday that despite the deadly incident Baku does not plan to cancel Mammadyarov’s talks with Nalbandian. According to some news reports, they could be held as early as next week.