YEREVAN — Four Armenian soldiers were killed and another wounded when their positions on Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan came under cross-border fire early on Tuesday.
Armenia’s Defense Ministry said its outposts around the border village of Nerkin Hand in southeastern Syunik province were targeted for four hours. The gunfire stopped at 9:30 a.m., it said in a statement.
The head of the village administration, Khachatur Baghdasaryan, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service that he heard intense gunshots at around the same time.
Azerbaijan confirmed that its troops deployed in the area opened fire early in the morning. Its State Border Service claimed to have destroyed an Armenian army post which fired at its positions and wounded one of its servicemen the previous evening.
For its part, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry accused Armenian forces of also violating ceasefire at another section of the long border late on Monday. The Defense Ministry in Yerevan denied the “disinformation.”
The Armenian Foreign Ministry condemned the Azerbaijani “provocation,” saying that Baku is “looking for pretexts” to heighten tensions on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and trying to torpedo international efforts to kick-start talks on a peace treaty between the two South Caucasus nations.
“This use of force followed bellicose statements made by Azerbaijan’s military-political leadership and its propaganda preparations of the last few days,” read a ministry statement. It urged Baku to “return to negotiations.”
Tuesday’s fighting was the most serious truce violation reported from the border in the last five months. The situation there was relatively calm amid growing fears that Azerbaijan will also invade Armenia after occupying Nagorno-Karabakh in September.
Last month, the European Union twice warned Baku against taking such military action in response to renewed Azerbaijani demands for Yerevan to open an extraterritorial corridor to the Nakhichevan exclave.
On Monday, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry summoned the EU ambassador in Baku to denounce a monitoring mission launched by the 27-nation bloc along Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan a year ago.
Later in the day the Armenian Defense Ministry released the names of servicemen killed in the Azerbaijani firing. They were identified as:
• Edward Hamlet Harutyunyan (born 1974)
• Gagik Varazdat Manukyan (born 1982)
• Arsen Gagik Hambardzumyan (born in 1979)
• Hrachya Talish Hovhannisyan (born in 1957)