The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry threatened to “disarm and neutralize” them as it accused Armenia of continuing to send military personnel and weapons to Karabakh. It also alleged that Russian peacekeepers escorted on Tuesday a convoy of Armenian and Karabakh military trucks along a dirt road close to a section of the Lachin corridor blocked by Azerbaijani protesters since December.
The authorities in Yerevan and Stepanakert were quick to reject the allegations. Moscow has still not reacted to them.
“Bellicose rhetoric from any side is counterproductive,” Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, told a news briefing in Moscow. “It does not help advance the peace agenda.”
“We proceed from the fact that Baku and Yerevan must strictly comply with all the provisions of the tripartite [Russian-Armenian-Azerbaijani] agreements at the highest level, including on ensuring security in Nagorno-Karabakh and using the Lachin corridor,” added Zakharova.
The 2020 ceasefire agreement brokered Moscow placed the corridor under the control of Russian peacekeepers and committed Baku to guaranteeing free passage through it.
The Armenian side regards the three-month Azerbaijani blockade of the sole road connecting Karabakh to Armenia as a gross violation of that agreement. It maintains that Baku’s desire to set up an Azerbaijani checkpoint there also runs counter to the truce accord.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov similarly indicated Moscow’s opposition to the checkpoint when he visited Baku last week.
Zakharova on Thursday also said: “We also believe that de-escalation of the current situation would be facilitated by official Yerevan’s active participation in the search for mutually acceptable solutions.”
She appeared to allude to Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan’s reluctance to hold a trilateral meeting with Lavrov and his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov.
The three ministers were scheduled to meet in Moscow in late December. Mirzoyan cancelled the talks at the last minute in protest against the Azerbaijani blockade of the Lachin corridor.
Lavrov said in Baku that he still stands ready to host the talks. He noted that Yerevan “has not yet given its final consent.”