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Armenia Deplores Turkish-Azeri Drills Near Karabakh


A Russian peacekeeper stands guard on a road in the town of Lachin on December 1, 2020.

Official Yerevan criticized Azerbaijan and Turkey on Tuesday for holding joint military exercises near Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry announced the start of the exercises on Monday, saying that they are taking place in the Lachin district which was mostly retaken by Baku shortly after last year’s war over Karabakh.

A 5-kilometer-wide stretch of the district currently serves as the sole overland link between Armenia and Karabakh. It is controlled by Russian peacekeeping forces deployed in the disputed territory under the terms of a Russian-brokered agreement that stopped the war last November.

The Defense Ministry in Baku said the drills are aimed at improving the interoperability of Azerbaijani and Turkish troops “during combat operations.” It did not specify the number of soldiers involved in them.

“We regard the conduct of the Turkish-Azerbaijani military exercises near the borders of Armenia, Artsakh (Karabakh) and the Lachin corridor as an action damaging de-escalation steps … and undermining efforts to establish a lasting peace, security and stability in the region,” the Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Vahan Hunanian, said in written comments.

There was no public reaction to the drills from Moscow.

The recently appointed Russian co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, Igor Khovayev, held talks in Yerevan with Armenia’s and Karabakh’s leaders on Monday.

Turkey provided decisive military assistance to Azerbaijan during the war. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev thanked Ankara for that aid when he and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited in June the Karabakh town of Shushi (Shusha) captured by the Azerbaijani army in November.

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