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Tensions Rise At Armenian-Azerbaijani Border Section (UPDATED)


Armenia -- Armenian army officers at a new border post in Syunik province bordering Azerbaijan, December 11, 2020.

Armenia accused Azerbaijan of resorting to border “provocations” after Azerbaijani troops reportedly crossed into its southeastern Syunik province early on Wednesday.

The incident occurred in a mountainous area about 10 kilometers north of the provincial town of Goris. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and local government officials said Azerbaijani troops crossed a nearby section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and advanced more than three kilometers towards the village of Verishen.

Pashinian held an emergency session of his Security Council late in the evening to discuss what he described as a security crisis.

“These [Azerbaijani] actions are intolerable for Armenia because this is an attack on Armenia’s sovereign territory,” Pashinian told members of the council in his opening remarks.

“They are trying to justify their actions with some maps which our first observations showed are false and fabricated,” he said.

“Armenia cannot put up with the existing situation … Our primary objective is to solve this problem through negotiations and by diplomatic means. But this is one of the options,” added Pashinian.

The Verishen mayor, Ararat Ordian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service that Azerbaijani troops advanced to within six kilometers of the village. He said the Armenian military responded by sending reinforcements to the area.

The Armenian Defense Ministry said more vaguely that early in the morning Azerbaijani forces “tried to carry out some works at one of the border sections of Syunik under the pretext of ‘border clarification.’”

“After measures taken by Armenian army units the Azerbaijani forces stopped those works,” it said in a statement issued early in the afternoon. “Right now negotiations are being held for resolving the situation.”

The ministry denied rumors about fighting triggered by the Azerbaijani troop movements. Pashinian likewise stressed that no gunshots were fired at the border section.

Some officials in Syunik said afterwards that Russian troops stationed in Armenia are also taking part in those negotiations while building up forces in the area to get the Azerbaijani side to pull back. The Russian military did not confirm that.

The Defense Ministry in Moscow reported later in the day that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu spoke with his Armenian counterpart Vagharshak Harutiunian by phone. A short ministry statement said they discussed the situation in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone and “other topics of mutual interest.”

Meanwhile, Armenian Foreign Minister Ara Ayvazian had a phone call with Russia’s Sergei Lavrov. According to his press office, Ayvazian briefed Lavrov on “the latest incident on Armenia’s state border” and stressed “the inadmissibility of such provocations by the Azerbaijani side.”

Lavrov met with Azerbaijan’s leaders in Baku earlier this week. He visited Yerevan last week.

A member of Goris’s municipal council, Narek Ordian, said late in the afternoon that the border standoff has not yet been resolved. “The negotiations are continuing,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. “They [Azerbaijani forces] are still there.”

Syunik borders districts southwest of Nagorno-Karabakh which were retaken by Azerbaijan during and after last year’s war. Russia deployed soldiers and border guards there to help the Armenian military defend the region against possible Azerbaijani attacks.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said last month that Moscow and Yerevan are holding “quite productive discussions” on a possible deployment of more Russian troops to Syunik.

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