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U.S. Envoy Visits Armenia-Azerbaijan Border


Armenia - U.S. Ambassador Lynne Tracy (R) visits an Armenian-Azerbaijani border area in Gegharkunik province, July 26,2021.

The U.S. ambassador in Yerevan, Lynne Tracy, visited on Monday one of the volatile sections of Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan where troops from the two warring states have increasingly exchanged fire in recent weeks.

The Armenian Defense Ministry said that Tracy inspected a border section near Verin Shorzha, a village in Gegharkunik province, after meeting with Major-General Arayik Harutiunian, the commander of an Armenian army corps stationed in the area.

“Ambassador Tracy reiterated U.S. concerns over incidents along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and emphasized that the U.S. rejects the use of force in border demarcation,” the ministry said in a statement.

The U.S. Embassy in Armenia did not immediately issue any statements on Tracy’s visit to the mountainous region bordering the Kelbajar district west of Nagorno-Karabakh handed back to Azerbaijan following last fall’s Armenian-Azerbaijani war.

The envoy went there three days after one Azerbaijani soldier was killed and three Armenian servicemen wounded in fresh skirmishes that broke out along Gegharkunik-Kelbajar portions of the border.

The two sides blamed each other for the escalation. They reported fresh truce violations in the area over the weekend and early on Monday.

Amenia - An Armenian soldier at a border post in Gegharkunik province, July 5, 2021.
Amenia - An Armenian soldier at a border post in Gegharkunik province, July 5, 2021.

A Russian-owned company mining gold near Sotk, another border village in Gegharkunik, said the gunfire forced it to briefly suspend operations and evacuate about 150 workers. A spokeswoman for the GeoProMining company told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service that it resumed its work on Monday morning.

Fresh skirmishes were also reported on Monday at another border section separating Armenia’s southern Ararat province from Azerbaijan’s Nakhichevan exclave. An Armenian soldier was shot dead there on July 14.

The upsurge in tensions comes more than two months after Azerbaijani troops advanced a few kilometers into Armenian territory in Gegharkunik and another province, Syunik, provoking a continuing standoff with Armenian army units.

Yerevan has repeatedly demanded their unconditional withdrawal. Baku insists that its forces took positions on the Azerbaijani side of the frontier.

The U.S. State Department has called on both sides to pull back their troops from contested portions of their border and start demarcating it. The Armenian government has backed the idea of troop disengagement.

A senior Armenian official said on July 7 that Russia has begun preparations for deploying its troops in Gegharkunik’s volatile border areas. Moscow has still not publicly confirmed that.

Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu spoke with his acting Armenian counterpart Arshak Karapetian on Monday. No details of the phone call were made public.

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