YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — The Armenian military repatriated over the weekend the body of an Azerbaijani soldier who was killed in late December in a failed armed Azerbaijani incursion into Armenia.
The 22-year-old soldier, Chingiz Qurbanov, as well as three Armenian servicemen were shot dead on December 29 at an Armenian army post in the northern Tavush province bordering western Azerbaijan. Officials in Yerevan say the fact that the Azerbaijani serviceman’s body was left lying in Armenian territory proves that the post was attacked by Azerbaijani troops.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry denied launching an incursion in the mountainous area, however. It claimed that an Armenian “reconnaissance squad” was ambushed by its forces while trying to cross into Azerbaijan.
Qurbanov’s body was returned to the Azerbaijani side with the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The handover took place on Sunday at another Tavush section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.
U.S., Russian and French mediators dealing with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict deplored last month the “attempted incursion on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.” But they stopped short of explicitly blaming Armenia or Azerbaijan for the December 29 incident. The three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group also urged Yerevan to repatriate Qurbanov’s body “without delay.”
In a weekend statement, Armenia’s Defense Ministry said forensic experts in Yerevan have finished examining the body as part of a criminal investigation into the border incident conducted by Armenian law-enforcement authorities.