Sun, 20 Jun 2021

Azerbaijan says one of its soldiers was wounded after Armenian forces opened fire along the two South Caucasus neighbors' border, an accusation Yerevan rejects.

The sides have blamed each other for a number of recent border incidents, heightening regional tensions following last year's war over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry said in a statement on May 28 that its positions in the Babek district of the country's Naxcivan exclave on the border with Armenia and Turkey 'came under fire from Armenian armed forces' overnight.

A serviceman was wounded in the shoulder and brought to hospital for treatment, the ministry said in a statement.

SEE ALSO: Azerbaijan Captures Six Armenian Soldiers In Latest Border Incident

Armenia's Defense Ministry called the allegations a "blatant lie," insisting that Armenian forces "did not open fire in the direction of Nakhichevan."

The previous day, six Armenian soldiers were detained by Azerbaijan along an area recaptured by Baku last year, prompting calls from Washington for the two neighbors to 'urgently and peacefully' resolve the issue.

Yerevan and Baku earlier this week blamed each other for border shoot-outs that Armenia said claimed the life of one of its soldiers.

Armenia had previously accused Azerbaijani troops of crossing several kilometers into its Syunik and Gegharkunik provinces and trying to stake a claim to territory. Azerbaijan insisted that its troops simply took up positions on the Azerbaijani side of the frontier that were not accessible during the winter months.

The fresh eruption of tensions comes months after the two countries ended a six-week war over Nagorno-Karabakh that claimed at least 6,900 lives. The conflict ended in November 2020 with a Moscow-brokered cease-fire that saw Armenia ceding swaths of territory that ethnic Armenians had controlled for decades. The truce is being monitored by some 2,000 Russian peacekeepers.

Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but has been controlled by ethnic Armenians since the early 1990s.

The ongoing escalation between Yerevan and Baku comes ahead of Armenia's snap parliamentary elections on June 20.

Armenian Foreign Minister Ara Ayvazian stepped down on May 27 after only six months in office, without giving a reason.

Ayvazian appeared to have tendered his resignation immediately after taking part in an emergency meeting of Armenia's Security Council, which discussed mounting tensions on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.

Speaking at the meeting, acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian called for the deployment of international observers along contested portions of the frontier where Armenian and Azerbaijani troops have been facing off for the last two weeks. It was not immediately clear if Ayvazian agreed with Pashinian's proposal.

The Yerevan newspaper Hraparak reported on May 21 that Ayvazian disagreed with Pashinian over a draft trilateral agreement with Azerbaijan and Russia to set up a joint committee to demarcate the border between the two South Caucasus neighbors.

Pashinian appointed Ayvazian as foreign minister on November 18 as part of a cabinet reshuffle that followed Armenia's defeat in a war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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