Armenia, Azerbaijan troops clash

Moscow heeds Yerevan’s call for help to fight ‘invaders’

YEREVAN, Armenia (AFP) — Armenia and Russia on Tuesday agreed on joint steps to stabilize the situation along Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan after deadly overnight clashes, officials in Yerevan said.

Armenian Defense Minister Suren Papikyan and Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu “held a phone conversation to discuss Azerbaijan’s aggression against Armenia’s sovereign territory,” the defense ministry in Yerevan said, adding that the two “agreed to take necessary steps to stabilize the situation.”

The intervention follows Armenia’s appeal to world leaders for help on Tuesday, saying that Azerbaijani forces were trying to advance onto its territory amid deadly clashes along the arch foes’ shared border.

Fighting erupted overnight along the volatile border between the Caucasus neighbors, leaving troops dead on both sides, defense ministries in Baku and Yerevan said.

“For the moment, we have 49 (troops) killed and unfortunately it’s not the final figure,” Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan told parliament in the Armenian capital Yerevan.

Flare up

The escalation marked the latest flare up since the end of the 2020 war between Yerevan and Baku over the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region.

“Azerbaijani forces continue using artillery, trench mortars and drones… striking military and civilian infrastructure. The enemy is trying to advance (into Armenian territory),” Armenia’s defense ministry in Yerevan said early on Tuesday.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s office said he called French President Emmanuel Macron, Russian President Vladimir Putin and the United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken to demand “an adequate reaction” to “Azerbaijan’s aggressive acts.”

Pashinyan also chaired an emergency session of the country’s security council that agreed to formally ask for military help from ally Moscow, which is obligated under a current treaty to defend Armenia in the event of foreign invasion.

Armenia is a member of the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization which also includes former Soviet republics Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Earlier, Azerbaijani defense ministry said its forces were responding to Armenian provocation and denied claims that they were hitting civilian infrastructure.

“Azerbaijani armed forces are undertaking limited and targeted steps, neutralizing Armenian firing positions,” it said in a statement.

Armenia said that Azerbaijani forces “launched intensive shelling, with artillery and large-caliber firearms, against Armenian military positions in the direction of the cities of Goris, Sotk and Jermuk” shortly after midnight.

But Azerbaijan’s defense ministry accused Armenia of “large-scale subversive acts” near the districts of Dashkesan, Kelbajar and Lachin on the border, adding that its army positions “came under fire, including from trench mortars.”

The neighbors fought two wars — in the 1990s and in 2020 — over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, Azerbaijan’s Armenian-populated enclave.

Six weeks of fighting in the autumn of 2020 claimed more than 6,500 lives and ended with a Russian-brokered ceasefire.

Under the deal, Armenia ceded swathes of territory it had controlled for decades and Moscow deployed about 2,000 Russian peacekeepers to oversee the fragile truce.

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