Azerbaijan, Armenia engage in new border clashes

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In renewed clashes, Azerbaijan and Armenia on Thursday traded blame for tensions at the border that resulted in casualties on both sides.

Armenia’s military said that two of its troops were wounded while Azerbaijan said Armenian forces killed one of its soldiers in what it called “a provocation.”

Baku’s Defense Ministry said an Azerbaijani soldier “was killed overnight as a result of a provocation by Armenia’s armed forces” near the countries’ shared border.

“Full responsibility for the escalation lies with Armenia’s political and military leaders,” the ministry said in a statement.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in a decadeslong dispute over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which 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. The Russia-brokered truce allowed Azerbaijan to reclaim control over large parts of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas that the Armenia-backed separatists controlled.

Tensions on the two nations’ border have been building since May, and clashes have been reported ever since.

Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan for talks in Sochi. After the meeting, Putin said that the three leaders agreed to create, before the end of the year, mechanisms for delimitation and demarcation of the border between the two countries. The talks focused on resolving disputes left over from last year’s war and were hailed by all sides as positive.

The trio met less than two weeks after the worst fighting since the Karabakh war killed six Armenian troops and seven Azerbaijani soldiers. They also addressed the issue of rebuilding Soviet-era transport links between Azerbaijan and Armenia, which are currently closed by a mutual blockade.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that Moscow will host an inaugural meeting of a six-way South Caucasus peace platform on Friday in an effort to discuss regional cooperation and the transport links.

The peace platform – including Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Russia, Iran and Turkey – was proposed by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after the cease-fire. Ankara, which has no diplomatic ties with Armenia, has said the platform may help normalize ties with Yerevan.

“The first meeting of the regional cooperation platform in the 3+3 format proposed … for the establishment of lasting peace and stability in the South Caucasus will be held in Moscow on Dec. 10,” the Foreign Ministry said.

It said Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russia, Iran and Turkey will be represented at the deputy foreign ministers level but did not elaborate on Georgia’s participation. On Dec. 4, Azerbaijan freed 10 Armenian soldiers it had captured during border clashes last month.

Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian are to meet again in Brussels on Dec. 15 for talks mediated by European Council President Charles Michel.

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