Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenian-backed military threatened “painful” retaliation on Monday as it accused Azerbaijani forces of shelling its frontline positions for the first time in two months.
The Defense Army claimed that they fired five mortar shells and one anti-tank rocket in northeastern Karabakh on Sunday. It released video footage purportedly showing two such shells exploding in a field and the Israeli-made Spike rocket flying over a Karabakh military facility and hitting the ground.
In a statement, the Karabakh army warned that it will retaliate in a “disproportionate and quite painful” fashion if the Azerbaijani side continues such “deliberate provocations.”
Another statement issued by it later in the day said Azerbaijani forces fired another Spike rocket at a different section of “the line of contact” around Karabakh on Monday afternoon. It said Karabakh Armenian troops again did not shoot back “in order not to deepen tension” on the frontlines.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry dismissed the first Karabakh statement as “slander.” It said that the Armenians themselves resorted to a “provocation” by killing an Azerbaijani soldier on Sunday. The ministry did not specify the frontline section where the soldier, identified as Jabbar Zeynalov, died.
The truce violations were reported one week after a meeting of Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s presidents held in Geneva. In a joint statement issued there, their foreign ministers and international mediators said Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev “agreed to take measures to intensify the negotiation process and to take additional steps to reduce tensions on the Line of Contact.”
Just three days after the Geneva summit, an Armenian soldier was killed in Karabakh by Azerbaijani sniper fire. Armenia’s ruling party responded by accusing Baku of “trying to walk away” from the understandings reached in Geneva. Still, Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian made clear on Friday that Yerevan will not avoid further talks with Baku.
The joint statement released in Genevan said the U.S., Russian and French mediators co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group will soon hold follow-up “working sessions” with Nalbandian and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov.