Saturday, November 26, 2022

Armenia, Azerbaijan trade to blame for renewed shelling

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Yerevan, Armenia (TN) — Armenia and Azerbaijan accused each other of a fresh round of firepower on Wednesday morning as hostilities reigned between the two long-standing adversaries.

Armenia’s Defense Ministry accused Azerbaijani forces of launching combat drones in the direction of the Armenian resort of Jermuk overnight and renewing the artillery and mortar shelling in the morning towards the village of Jermuk and Verin Shorzha near Lake Sevan.

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In return, the Azerbaijani army alleged that Armenian forces shelled their positions in the Kalbazar and Lachin districts near the separatist Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Armenia said at least 49 of its soldiers had been killed since fighting began early on Tuesday, while Azerbaijan said it had lost 50.

The two countries are locked in a decades-long conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, which is part of Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a separatist war ended in 1994.

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Azerbaijan reclaimed extensive areas of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas in a six-week war in 2020 that killed more than 6,600 people and ended with a Russia-brokered peace deal. Moscow has deployed about 2,000 troops to the region to serve as peacekeepers under the agreement.

Russia moved swiftly on Tuesday to negotiate an end to the fighting, but failed to blame trade parties for the ceasefire violations sought from the broker.

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“Despite appeals from the international community and a ceasefire agreement, the Armenian Armed Forces continue to carry out attacks and provocations along the state border using artillery and other heavy weapons,” Azerbaijan’s defense ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

It said two Azerbaijani civilians were injured by Armenian shelling in Kalbazar and Lachin districts.

Moscow is engaged in a delicate balancing act in seeking to maintain friendly relations with both former Soviet countries. It has strong economic and security ties with Armenia, which hosts a Russian military base, while also developing close cooperation with oil-rich Azerbaijan.

The international community also appealed for peace.

The Armenian government said it would officially seek assistance from Russia under the friendship treaty between the countries, and would also appeal to the United Nations and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Moscow-dominated security alliance of ex-Soviet nations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and leaders of other CSTO members discussed the situation in a call late Tuesday, urging an early end to hostilities. They agreed to send a mission of top officials from the Security Alliance to the area.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the mission would give a report assessing developments to the leaders of CSTO member states. “The situation remains tense,” Peskov told reporters on Wednesday.

Putin is due to meet with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev in Samarkand, Uzbekistan on Friday, where they will both attend a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a security group dominated by Russia and China.

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Aida Sultanova in London and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.

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