Armenia accused Azerbaijan of shelling its territory as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken appealed for an end to fighting that threatens to undermine a Russia-brokered cease-fire.
“The United States is deeply concerned about reports of attacks along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, including reported strikes against settlements and civilian infrastructure inside Armenia,” Blinken said in a statement posted Monday on the State Department’s website. “We urge an end to any military hostilities immediately.”
Armenia’s Defense Ministry said Azerbaijani forces started firing on its positions early Tuesday. Azerbaijan was shelling in the direction of the southern Armenian towns of Goris, Kapan and Jermuk, and was also using unmanned drones, it said, adding that the number of casualties was still being clarified.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry denied starting the attacks and said its forces were carrying out “local counter-measures in retaliation for large scale Armenian provocation.” It said there had been no incursion into Armenian territory.
The fighting is the latest flare-up in tensions between the two neighboring Caucasus states since thousands were killed in a 44-day war over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh that was halted in November 2020 when Russian President Vladimir Putin brokered a truce.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan spoke with Blinken by phone about the fighting along the border. Pashinyan also talked with Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron, his office said.
Russia, the U.S. and France are members of the so-called Minsk Group of mediators that have been trying for decades to negotiate a settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that erupted during the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Pashinyan held a meeting of Armenia’s security council which decided to appeal to Russia for assistance under a 1997 mutual-defense treaty. There was no immediate official response from Moscow.
Russia has a military base in Armenia and it sent 2,000 peacekeeping troops to Nagorno-Karabakh as part of the agreement to halt the 2020 war.
In August, Azerbaijan’s army regained the town of Lachin, which sits along a road linking Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, for the first time in 30 years as part of the cease-fire deal. During the war, Azerbaijan took control of part of Nagorno-Karabakh and regained seven surrounding districts that had been occupied by Armenian troops since the 1990s.
Despite the cease-fire, Azerbaijan and Armenia have yet to reach a peace agreement and sporadic fighting has continued, even as the two sides have held talks to try to delineate their common border and open up transport routes.
Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev met on Aug. 31 in Brussels to discuss progress in seeking to reach a peace agreement.
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