At least two Azerbaijani soldiers were killed after Armenian forces opened fire in the Karabakh region, Azerbaijan’s Defence Ministry has said.
Expressing its condolences to the families and relatives of the soldiers, the ministry said late on Sunday that “as a result of the provocation committed by illegal Armenian formations,” Alibeyli Shakhriyar Ramiz and Huseynov Eshgin lost their lives.
According to the Armenian press, three Armenian police officers also died in the clash.
Toivo Klaar, the European Union’s Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the Crisis in Georgia, said on Twitter that he had returned to Azerbaijan’s capital Baku for talks on advancing the peace process between Armenia and Azerbaijan, saying the latest incident underscores the need to make progress.
“Look forward to substantive meetings with Azerbaijan leadership to advance peace process after meetings in Munich.
The deadly incident today underscores the urgency of pushing forward with negotiations to achieve stability & a fair peace,” Klaar said.
Azerbaijani Defence Ministry said on Sunday it received information about the transportation of military equipment, ammunition, and personnel from Armenia to the Karabakh region through the Khankendi-Khalfali-Turshsu road, where a Russian peacekeeping contingent has been temporarily stationed since the aftermath of the fall 2020 conflict in the region and a January 2021 pact with Baku and Yerevan.
“On the morning of March 5, in order to check the received information, an attempt was made to stop and check the vehicles carrying illegal military transports by units of the Azerbaijan Army. Shots were fired from the other side and there were casualties and injuries from both sides as a result of the skirmish,” the statement said.
The statement further said Baku brought to the attention of the command of the Russian peacekeeping contingent that the fulfilment of the clauses of the Tripartite Declaration of November 2020 between Azerbaijan, Russia, and Armenia must be “unconditionally and fully ensured.”
Noting that the Lachin road is the only route that can be used to connect Armenia to the Karabakh region, the statement said it reminds the command of the Russian peacekeeping contingent that the “implementation of military and other transportation on other routes is absolutely inadmissible.”
“We remind you that the facts of the transportation of weapons, ammunition, other military equipment, including mines, fuel, and manpower from Armenia to the Karabakh region have been established before.”
“The Azerbaijani side has repeatedly warned the international community about the transportation of mines along the mentioned route,” it also noted.
The shooting showed that Azerbaijan needs to establish a checkpoint on the Lachin road, it said, adding: “The fact that Armenia is still carrying out military transports to the Karabakh economic region of Azerbaijan is the country’s continued aggression and terrorist policy against Azerbaijan. All responsibility for the provocation lies with the military and political leadership of Armenia.”
A later statement by the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry also called for the implementation of the Tripartite Declaration, further noting that the skirmish demonstrates that “Armenia’s views on the peace agenda are nothing but hypocrisy, and that Armenia is not interested in establishing peace and security in the region.”
Relations between the two former Soviet republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan have been tense since 1991, when the Armenian military occupied Karabakh, a territory internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, and seven adjacent regions.
In the fall of 2020, in 44 days of clashes, Azerbaijan liberated several cities, villages, and settlements from Armenian occupation. The Russian-brokered peace agreement is celebrated as a triumph in Azerbaijan.