YEREVAN — Lieutenant-General Artak Davtyan, the chief of the Armenian army’s General Staff, said on Tuesday, that Moscow and Yerevan are close to reaching a relevant agreement to deploy Russian troops in Armenia’s Gegharkunik province bordering Azerbaijan.
“As soon as there is a final agreement in terms of time frames and technical issues there will be a further announcement,” he told reporters.
Davtyan expressed confidence that Russian border guards will be deployed to Armenia’s Gegharkunik province. It borders the Kelbajar district west of Nagorno-Karabakh which was retaken by Azerbaijan following the autumn war.
Azerbaijani troops crossed several sections of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and advanced a few kilometers into Gegharkunik and another province, Syunik, on May 12-14. Yerevan has repeatedly demanded their withdrawal since then. Baku insists that its troops took positions on the Azerbaijani side of the frontier.
Gegharkunik’s governor, Gnel Sanosyan, announced the impending deployment of Russian border guards there late on Monday. He said that it will be followed by the withdrawal of Armenian and Azerbaijani forces from contested border portions.
Davtyan did not confirm the planned troop disengagement mentioned by Sanosyan.
“Negotiations are taking place with the Russian side because there are still issues,” he said. “Our goal is to have Azerbaijani forces withdraw from our territory without any clashes.”
It is not clear whether Russian military personnel could also be dispatched to the disputed border section in Syunik.
Russia already deployed army soldiers and border guards elsewhere in Syunik following the Armenian-Azerbaijani war stopped by a Russian-brokered ceasefire in November.
Russia’s and Armenia’s defense ministers discussed further Russian deployments in a January 16 phone call. They again spoke by phone on Monday.
“Sergei Shoigu and Vagharshak Harutyunyan discussed the situation at Armenian-Azerbaijani border sections in Gegharkunik and Syunik and ways of resolving it,” the Armenian Defense Ministry said in a statement. It gave no details.