At least four Armenian soldiers were killed and one injured in an exchange of fire with Azerbaijani forces on the shared border. It is the most serious incident between the two Caucasus countries since the reconquest of Nagorno-Karabakh – an Armenian-majority enclave on Azerbaijani territory – by Azerbaijan in September and, in December, the two countries are committed to negotiating with a view to signing a peace agreement that ends more than three decades of conflict between these two former Soviet states.
The Armenian Defense Ministry reported on its website that the fighting began at 5:30 a.m. local time (2:30 a.m. in mainland Spain) when “units of the Azerbaijani armed forces opened fire with small arms” against Armenian positions at the periphery of the area. town of Nerkin Hand, at the southern end of the border which separates the two countries. The same institution later added that the fighting had stopped four hours later.
For its part, the Azerbaijani National Border Service (DSX) declared that the attack was a “revenge operation” in response to Armenian “provocations,” state news agency AZERTAC reported. According to this version, Armenian forces stationed near Nerkin Hand opened fire Monday evening against Azerbaijani positions, and a few hours later the Azerbaijani army responded by “destroying the Armenian positions.” “There are serious losses among the personnel of the destroyed combat post,” assured the official agency.
Arman Tatoyan, a former mediator in Armenia, published an article on 215 square kilometers of occupied territory, internationally recognized as Armenia, after various clashes along the border over the past three years.
Since the end of 2022, the European Union has maintained a border surveillance mission aimed at avoiding these clashes and deployed at the request of the Yerevan government, despite opposition from Azerbaijan and Russia. Moscow has a military base of around 2,000 soldiers near the Armenian town of Gyumri and the two countries have signed a mutual defense pact, but Nikol Pashinyan’s government laments that Vladimir Putin has abandoned his Caucasian partner in the face of attacks of Azerbaijan.
In 2020, the government in Baku launched a military offensive against the Azerbaijani provinces controlled by the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh and, de facto, by the neighboring Republic of Armenia, since the war in the early 1990s that followed the independence of the two states of the Soviet Union. Union. After this war, which left more than 7,000 dead in six weeks, only a fraction of the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh remained in the hands of the Armenians and under Russian supervision, but, in September of last year, after nine months of Following an intense blockade, Azerbaijan launched their final offensive to regain control of the territory, causing 100,000 local Armenians to flee.
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Despite the heavy blow that the loss of Nagorno-Karabakh brought to the Armenian psyche, the Pashinián government committed to negotiating with Baku to reach a definitive peace agreement, aware of the military inferiority of its country compared to the Azerbaijan, rich in hydrocarbons. its ally Turkey, among the 20 richest economies in the world. Both countries keep their borders with Armenia closed, blocking the Caucasus country to the east and west.
Already last year, Pashinyan publicly recognized Azerbaijan’s sovereignty over Karabakh and proposed, last January, amending the Armenian Constitution to eliminate references to Nagorno-Karabakh from the preamble. But the Armenian leader’s position is fragile, accused by the opposition and his former allies of offering concession after concession to an Azerbaijan grown by its victories. Indeed, part of the population fears a new conflict following the irredentist speeches of the Azerbaijani authorities, who demand the opening of a corridor through the south of the neighboring country (area where the fighting took place this Tuesday) and have come claim territories of Armenia which, before the Russian Revolution, were populated mainly by Azeris.
On the other side of the border, President Ilham Aliyev has no problem with the opposition after reappointing for another seven years his post as president, which he inherited upon the death of his father in 2003. In the February 7 elections, Aliyev received 92% of the vote, despite criticism from the Council of Europe and election observers for the lack of democratic controls and the campaign of repression against opposition media and activists that preceded it. the vote.
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