President Vladimir Putin and other top Russian officials on Friday voiced serious concerns over deadly hostilities on Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan and offered to help ease tensions between the two South Caucasus states.
They discussed the latest flare-up in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone during a session of Russia’s Security Council headed by Putin.
A statement by the Kremlin said participants of the meeting engaged in a “detailed exchange of views regarding the situation on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border” and expressed “deep concern” over heavy fighting that broke out there on July 12.
They stressed the “urgent need” for Armenia and Azerbaijan to respect the ceasefire and expressed Moscow’s “readiness for mediation activities,” added the statement. It did not give further details.
Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, made identical comments to the Russian press after the meeting attended by the speakers of both houses of Russia’s parliament, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Federal Security Service Director Aleksandr Bortnikov, Foreign Intelligence Service Director Sergey Naryshkin and other officials.
Lavrov already telephoned his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts on Monday to call for an immediate end to the skirmishes involving artillery fire and drone attacks. The fighting continued in the following days, however, with the conflicting parties putting the blame on each other.
A Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said on Thursday that Moscow is “working with” the parties to prevent a further escalation. Neither side has reported serious ceasefire violations since then. According to the Armenian Defense Ministry, the situation at a border section where at least 16 soldiers from both sides have been killed since July 12 was “relatively calm” on Friday.
The United States, the European Union as well as Iran have also urged Baku and Yerevan to show restraint without holding either side responsible for the escalation.
By contrast, Turkey, Azerbaijan’s closest ally, has blamed the Armenian side and promised military aid to Baku, raising the prospect of a more direct Turkish involvement in the Karabakh conflict.
“Our armed unmanned aerial vehicles, ammunition and missiles are at Azerbaijan’s service along with our experience, technology and capabilities,” Ismail Demir, the head of a state body overseeing the Turkish defense industry, tweeted after meeting with a high-ranking military delegation from Azerbaijan in Ankara on Friday.
For his part, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Thursday that Armenia will be “brought to account” for its “attack” on Azerbaijan.
Armenia has close military ties with Russia and hosts Russian troops on its soil mainly because of a perceived security threat from Turkey. The latter refuses to establish diplomatic relations with Armenia and keeps the Turkish-Armenian border closed out of solidarity with Azerbaijan.
In a possible reference to Ankara, Lavrov said on Monday that all countries making up the OSCE Minsk Group should “avoid statements and actions that could provoke a further rise in tensions” in the Karabakh conflict zone.
Russian, U.S. and French diplomats co-heading the group have long been spearheading international efforts to broker a solution to the Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute.