The clashes come when Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev are supposed to meet Sunday in Brussels in a meeting sponsored by the European Union.
An Azeri soldier was killed Thursday in new clashes at the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, in an escalation of tension that comes days before the upcoming talks between Baku and Yerevan.
For three decades, the two countries in the Caucasus have been fighting over sovereignty over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, and on Thursday they exchanged accusations of firing “mortar shells” and using “heavy weapons” and “provocations” on the border.
The Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense said in a statement that “a soldier in the Azerbaijani army was killed as a result of provocation by the Armenian forces,” accusing them of bombing Azerbaijani positions at the border. For its part, Yerevan indicated that four Armenian soldiers were injured in the clashes, which it blamed on Baku.
The clashes come when Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev are supposed to meet Sunday in Brussels at a meeting sponsored by the European Union. This meeting comes after four days of intense discussions at the beginning of May in Washington between two delegations from the two countries.
On Thursday, Pashinyan accused Azerbaijan of seeking to “torpedo the talks” in Brussels, stressing at the same time that he was still ready to go there. “I have not changed my decision to go to Brussels,” he said in an intervention before the Armenian government.
However, he considered that there are “very small” chances of signing a peace agreement with Azerbaijan during this meeting. The Armenian prime minister added that the draft peace agreement “is still at a preliminary stage and it is too early to talk about a possible signing.”
For its part, the Azerbaijani Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused Armenia of having “no interest in the peace process” and of wanting to “damage” the talks. However, the Azeri diplomacy confirmed Aliyev’s agreement to meet Pashinyan in Brussels.
Moscow calls for “restraint”
For its part, the Kremlin, which has repeatedly played the role of mediator between Armenia and Azerbaijan, urged the two parties to “restraint” and “not take any steps that would exacerbate tension.” “We will continue to communicate with Baku and Yerevan” for a peaceful settlement, the Kremlin said.
Armenia and Azerbaijan, the two former Soviet republics in the Caucasus, fought two wars, the first in the early 1990s, and the second in 2020, with the aim of controlling the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which is inhabited by an Armenian majority and unilaterally separated from Azerbaijan three decades ago.
After a lightning war in which Baku seized lands in the Nagorno-Karabakh region in the fall of 2020, Baku and Yerevan signed a ceasefire mediated by Moscow. Since then, Russian soldiers have been deployed to supervise compliance with the ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh, but Armenia has been complaining for months about their ineffectiveness.
Tensions were renewed when Baku announced, on April 23, that it had set up the first checkpoint at the entrance to the Lachin corridor, the only land link between Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which was subject to a blockade for several months that caused a shortage of goods and power outages, a step that Armenia considered a violation of the ceasefire. The last declared between the two sides.