Armenia on Tuesday reported at least one fatality and the loss of military positions in border clashes with Azerbaijani troops, a year after the arch-foes fought a war over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
The border clashes marked the worst fighting since more than 6,500 people were killed in a 44-day conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave late last year. That conflict ended after Russia brokered a ceasefire deal that saw Armenia cede swathes of territory it had controlled for decades.
Armenia's defence ministry on Tuesday reported "fatalities and wounded" among its forces "following an attack by Azerbaijani forces." It said Azeri forces had captured several Armenian troops as well as "two military positions".
The ministry reported later in the evening that Russia had brokered an end to hostilities, describing the situation as "relatively stabilised". It said at least one Armenian serviceman was killed in the clashes.
Earlier in the day, the two sides accused each other of initiating fighting along their disputed border, with Azerbaijan's defence ministry claiming that "Armenian troops attacked Azerbaijani positions in the districts of Kelbajar and Lachin".
The ministry said Azerbaijani troops "stopped the enemy's advance, surrounded and detained Armenian servicemen," adding that two of its soldiers were injured.
Appeals to Moscow
France, home to Europe's largest Armenian population, expressed its "deep concern" over Tuesday's clashes, urging both sides to respect the terms of a ceasefire deal signed in November 2020.
The French foreign ministry said in a statement it was particularly alarmed by reports of use of heavy weaponry "which has caused many deaths, especially on the Armenian side".
Before the announcement of a truce, Armenia had appealed to ally Russia for military support under the Collective Security Treaty Organisation pact, which obliges Moscow to protect it in the event of a foreign invasion. Russia responded by calling on both sides to "de-escalate".
Since last year's war, both Armenia and Azerbaijan have reported occasional exchanges of fire, sparking fears of another flare-up in their territorial dispute.
On Sunday, they traded accusations of opening fire at their border near Karabakh. The day before, Nagorno-Karabakh authorities said the only road connecting Armenia to the separatist territory – the Lachin Corridor – was briefly closed due to an incident between the two sides.
Ethnic Armenian separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, and the ensuing conflict claimed around 30,000 lives.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)