Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenian-backed army said on Wednesday that Azerbaijani forces have fired mortars on its frontline positions for the first time in almost a year.
In a statement, the Defense Army said that the shelling did not hurt any of its soldiers and stopped after its troops returned fire. It did not specify whether they also used mortars in response.
“It has to be noted that this is the first instance of the Azerbaijani army’s use of mortars against Armenian positions since June 2019,” the statement said, adding that “the situation on the frontline is calm at the moment.”
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry did not immediately comment on the claim. It said earlier in the day that Armenian troops continued to violate the ceasefire along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and the Karabakh “line of contact” with small arms in the past 24 hours.
The Karabakh Armenian army claimed to have shot down an Azerbaijani military drone just hours before the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers as well as international mediators held a video conference April 21. In a joint statement, Foreign Ministers Zohrab Mnatsakanian and Elmar Mammadyarov pledged to continue looking for ways to resolve the Karabakh conflict despite the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the statement, during the conference the U.S., Russian and French mediators co-heading the Minsk Group renewed their calls for the conflicting parties to “strictly” observe the ceasefire and “avoid provocative actions in the current environment.”
Truce violations in the conflict zone have decreased significantly since Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev met for the first time in September 2018. The two leaders and their foreign ministers have held regular talks since then.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on April 21 that the two sides have been “actively discussing” a peace plan which he presented to Mnatsakanian and Mammadyarov at a trilateral meeting held in Moscow a year ago. Lavrov said the plan calls for a phased settlement that would start with Armenian withdrawal from “several districts around Karabakh.”
Mnatsakanian implicitly denied this. He said that for the last two years Baku and Yerevan have only exchanged views on “some elements” of a possible peace deal.
By contrast, Mammadyarov echoed Lavrov’s claims when he spoke to journalists in Baku on Tuesday.