YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) — Armenia and Azerbaijan reported military clashes on their shared border Tuesday and blamed each other for starting the conflict amid tensions between the two ex-Soviet nations that have simmered since a 6-week war last year over Nagorno-Karabakh.
The Armenian Defense Ministry accused Azerbaijan's military of opening fire on Armenian positions, killing an unspecified number of troops and and capturing 12 servicemen. The Azerbaijani government, meanwhile, accused Armenia of “large-scale provocation” on the border.
Armenian lawmaker Eduard Aghajanyan told reporters that 15 Armenian soldiers were killed in Tuesday's clash, but so far there has been no official confirmation. The Azerbaijani military said two of its servicemen were wounded.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in a decades-old dispute over the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh, a region that lies within Azerbaijan but was under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a separatist war there ended in 1994.
Moscow brokered a peace deal last November to end six weeks of fighting over the territory, during which more than 6,600 people were killed in the conflict. The Russia-brokered truce allowed Azerbaijan to reclaim control over large parts of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas which the Armenia-backed separatists controlled.
Tensions on the two nations' border have been building since May, when Armenia protested what it described as an incursion by Azerbaijani troops into its territory. Azerbaijan has insisted that its soldiers were deployed to what it considers its territory in areas where the border has yet to be demarcated. Clashes have been reported ever since.
On Monday, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan accused Azerbaijani forces of an incursion into his country's territory, and reports of fighting, with the use of artillery, followed Tuesday from both countries.
Armenia's Security Council has called on Russia to help protect the country's territorial integrity.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu spoke on the phone with his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts Tuesday, urging “both sides to cease activities that provoke the escalation of the situation,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
Later Tuesday, Pashinyan spoke by phone Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two leaders discussed the situation on the border, according to the Kremlin's readout of the call.
European Council President Charles Michel called Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and voiced concern over the escalating tensions on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, according to Aliyev’s press service.
The Associated Press