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Russia ‘Closely Monitoring’ Armenian-Azeri Border Crisis


Russia - A view of the the Russian Foreign Ministry building in Moscow, February 22, 2019.

Russia said on Tuesday that it keeps trying to ease tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan as troops from the two South Caucasus countries remained locked in a border standoff threatening to reignite the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Moscow is maintaining intensive contacts with both sides “at the highest and high levels” and pressing them to stick to a ceasefire accord that stopped last year’s war in Karabakh.

“We are continuing to closely monitor the situation connected with the border incident between Armenia and Azerbaijan,” the ministry said in a statement.

“We believe that all such incidents should be resolved in a solely peaceful and negotiated way,” it said. “We see the launch of a process of delimitation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and its subsequent demarcation as a long-term solution.”

Russian military officials participated in a series of Armenian-Azerbaijani talks held after Azerbaijani forces reportedly advanced several kilometers at some sections of the border last week. The talks are due to resume on Wednesday.

Armenia has condemned the Azerbaijani troop movements as a violation of its territorial integrity and asked Russia and the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) for military support.

Moscow has still not publicly commented on the appeal or openly backed Yerevan in the dispute. The foreign ministers of Russia, Armenia and the four other CSTO member states are expected to discuss the issue when they meet in Tajikistan on Wednesday.

Some Russian analysts on Tuesday blamed Yerevan for the Azerbaijani territorial gains made on the border and the resulting crisis.

“The country is demonstrating utter helplessness,” one of them, Nikolay Silayev, told the Moscow daily Izvestia. “[Armenian] state bodies are not even trying to solve the problem on their own. One has the impression that Yerevan is looking for someone who would solve the border conflict for it.”

Echoing statements by Armenian opposition politicians, Silayev said the Armenian authorities have failed to properly fortify vulnerable border portions since the Karabakh war was halted six months ago.

Armenia says that Azerbaijani troops crossed into its Syunik and Gegharkunik provinces. The Armenian military responded by sending reinforcements to those areas. According to it, Baku has pulled back some of its troops in recent days. No shooting incidents have been reported so far.

The Defense Ministry in Yerevan said on Tuesday morning that Armenian troops are “preventing” the Azerbaijani side from providing “logistical support” to its soldiers remaining within Armenia’s borders.

A ministry source confirmed reports that Armenian and Azerbaijani servicemen deployed at a Gegharkunik section of the frontier scuffled at one point on Monday. The dispute was quickly resolved and no gunshots were fired by either side, the source told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.

In Gegharkunik, Azerbaijani forces advanced towards three Armenian villages, depriving some local residents of their traditional summer pastures. Sima Chitchian, who runs one of those villages, Kut, said they continue to occupy hills overlooking the community heavily dependent on animal husbandry.

“We look through binoculars and can see their tents and troop movements,” said Chitchian.

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