YEREVAN — Azerbaijani soldiers have blocked a road, interrupting traffic between two parts of Armenia’s southern Syunik region, Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) said on Thursday.
The NSS said that the Karmrakar-Shurnukh section of the Goris-Kapan highway was closed at about 11 p.m. on August 25, with vehicles in the area being removed.
The news about the closing of the road came shortly after a statement by Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry that claimed that two Armenian soldiers committed a stabbing attack against an Azerbaijani border-guard there.
Armenia’s Defense Ministry categorically denied that any such incident happened, describing the statement as a “sheer lie” and “another piece of Azerbaijani disinformation.”
The NSS, meanwhile, said that negotiations were underway to restore traffic along the road.
A 21-kilometer stretch of the road that links two Armenian towns, Goris and Kapan, and is also part of Armenia’s interstate connection with Iran was built in the Soviet times partly through the territory of Azerbaijan due to the complex terrain in the mountainous region.
It created no problems during the Soviet times when borders between Soviet republics were administrative.
After the disintegration of the Soviet Union and a 1992-1994 war in Nagorno-Karabakh the territory became fully controlled by Armenians who declared their independence from Baku in the former autonomous region and expanded into some territories outside Nagorno-Karabakh proper.
Azerbaijani forces captured the territory as a result of last fall’s 44-day war in Nagorno-Karabakh. Eventually, an arrangement was made between Armenia and Russia that the 21-kilometer section of the road will continue to be used by Armenians under the control of Russian border-guards before Armenia can build another alternative road for all types of transportation that will connect two parts of the Syunik region.
Meanwhile, Armenia’s Ombudsman Arman Tatoyan said that his office was receiving numerous calls from citizens complaining about the restriction of their travel.
“The presence of Azerbaijani servicemen on the roads between the communities of the Syunik region is a crime that violates the right of citizens to life, free movement and other vital rights guaranteed at the international level,” Tatoyan said.
Official Baku did not immediately react to the situation.
Negotiations with the Azerbaijani side on the re-opening of the road, which were reportedly conducted by Russian bodyguards deployed in the area, continued on Thursday morning.
Syunik’s deputy governor Narek Babayan told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun) later on Thursday that the Goris-Vorotan section of the road was also closed. He said that negotiations on reopening both sections of the road were underway.