STEPANAKERT — The Karabakh Armenian army says that intensive Azerbaijani gunfire prevents its troops from recovering the bodies of the three pilots of the downed helicopter. According to its latest statement, Azerbaijani troops stationed nearby opened fire from not only assault rifles but also heavy machine guns and grenade launchers on the night from Thursday to Friday.

The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) Defense Army vanguard forces, however, have taken and are taking all necessary measures not to permit the adversary to approach the chopper’s crash site, the NKR MOD press service informed.

At present, the crash site and the entire frontline are under the constant supervision of the Armenian positions.

Meanwhile France pledged on Friday to “do everything” to help the Armenian military gain unfettered access to the wreckage of its helicopter shot down by Azerbaijani forces and recover the bodies of its three crew members.

“As a co-chair of the [OSCE’s] Minsk Group, France wants, from the humanitarian standpoint, the bodies of the three pilots of the downed helicopter to be handed over to Armenia. France will do everything to make that handover possible,” Jean-Francois Charpentier, the French ambassador in Yerevan, said in a written statement.

The U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-heading the Minsk Group similarly urged Baku on Wednesday to “permit the recovery of the bodies of the victims.” In a joint statement, they said they remain “deeply concerned that there has been no humanitarian access to the crash site.”

The Azerbaijani ministries of defense and foreign affairs dismissed the statement the following day, saying that its wordings favor the Armenian side. Aliyev’s chief foreign policy advisor, Novruz Mammadov, went further on Friday, saying that the mediators acted at the behest of the Armenian lobby in the West. “The Armenian Diaspora is trying to deal a blow to Azerbaijan’s international reputation by any means,” Mammadov charged in a Twitter post cited by the APA news agency.

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