Deadly Fighting Continues On Armenian-Azeri Border (UPDATED)

119 — Soldiers of an artillerty unit of the Armenian army train at a military base in Tavush province, September 18, 2019.

Seven Azerbaijani servicemen, including an army general, and four Armenian soldiers were killed on Tuesday in fierce fighting that continued on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border for the third consecutive day.

Azerbaijan’s Deputy Defense Minister Kerim Veliyev said Major-General Polad Hashimov and Colonel Ilgar Mirzoyev died “like heroes” in the western Tovuz district bordering Armenia’s northern Tavush province, the scene of the fighting.

According to Azerbaijani news agencies, Veliyev also confirmed the deaths of five other Azerbaijani soldiers, among them two army majors. He gave no other details of the incident.

At least four other Azerbaijani soldiers were killed shortly after skirmishes at that section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani frontier, the worst in years, broke out on Sunday.

The Armenian military reported, meanwhile, that it has suffered its first casualties since the start of the hostilities. Shushan Stepanian, the spokeswoman for Armenia’s Defense Ministry, said Major Garush Hambardzumian and Captain Sos Elbakian were killed by enemy fire.

The ministry reported later in the day two more combat deaths in the Armenian army ranks. It said both victims were junior sergeants.

Stepanian said in the morning that an Azerbaijani military drone attacked civilian infrastructure in Berd, an Armenian town close to the border section. She said none of the town residents were hurt as a result.

The Armenian Foreign Ministry condemned the reported drone attack, saying that the Azerbaijani side will receive an “adequate response.”

According to the authorities in Yerevan, Azerbaijani forces shelled two Armenian border villages on Monday.

Baku likewise accused the Armenian side of shelling Azerbaijani villages located along the heavily militarized border. It said that a 75-year-old resident of one of those villages was killed on Tuesday.

The conflicting sides accuse each other of provoking the escalation with attempts to seize enemy positions in the mountainous area.

The truce violations there continued despite calls for an immediate end to the skirmishes voiced by Russia, the European Union and the United States. The U.S., Russian and French mediators trying to a broker a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict urged Armenia and Azerbaijan on Monday resume peace talks “as soon as possible.”

The U.S. State Department added its voice to the mediators’ appeal and condemned the deadly violence “in the strongest terms.”

“The United States joins the Minsk Group Co-Chairs in calling for the sides to resume substantive negotiations as soon as possible and in emphasizing the importance of returning OSCE monitors to the region as soon as circumstances allow,” said the department spokesperson, Morgan Ortagus.

For its part, Russia stated through Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Tuesday that it remains “deeply concerned” about the situation on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.

Peskov also said Moscow is ready to make “mediation efforts” to defuse the tensions and facilitate progress in Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks. He pointed to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s “intensive contacts” with his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts.

Lavrov urged Yerevan and Baku to immediately stop hostilities and show “restraint” during his separate phone conversations with Zohrab Mnatsakanian and Elmar Mammadyarov.

The Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers also spoke on Monday by phone with Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief. Borrell tweeted afterwards that he “underlined the need to defuse tensions and cease fire.”




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