Armenia and Azerbaijan have traded accusations of the other side initiating fighting along their shared border as fresh clashes erupted between the arch foes a year after their war over contested territory.
“There are fatalities and wounded among Armenian troops as a result of fighting that erupted following an attack by Azerbaijani forces,” Armenia’s defence ministry said on Tuesday, adding that the number of casualties was being verified and that Yerevan had “lost control of two military positions”.
The ministry later said that 12 Armenian servicemen were captured by the Azerbaijani military.
Last year’s six-week armed conflict for control of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region killed more than 6,500 people and ended in November with a Russian-brokered truce.
Under the ceasefire agreement, Armenia ceded swaths of territory it had controlled for decades.
On Tuesday, Azerbaijan’s defence ministry said: “Armenia’s armed forces committed a large-scale provocation at the state border at 11:00 am (GMT 0700) on Tuesday.
“Armenian troops attacked Azerbaijani positions in the districts of Kelbajar and Lachin,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that two Azerbaijani troops were wounded in the clashes.
Azerbaijani troops “stopped the enemy’s advance, surrounded and detained Armenian servicemen,” it added.
Armenia’s defence ministry said Azerbaijani forces “attempted to break through the Armenia’s state border, at the eastern direction” before being repelled by Armenian troops.
European Council head Charles Michel urged the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia to call a “full ceasefire”.
Call for urgent de-escalation and full ceasefire.
Challenging situation in region – EU is committed to work with partners to overcome tensions for a prosperous and stable South Caucasus.
— Charles Michel (@eucopresident) November 16, 2021
Michel said in a tweet he had spoken to both President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan and Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan of Armenia saying the European Union was “committed to work with partners to overcome tensions for a prosperous and stable South Caucasus”.
Russia Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu held phone calls with his Armenian and Azeri counterparts and called on them to stop activity which provokes escalation between the two countries, the Interfax news agency quoted his ministry as saying.
Russian help requested
Earlier, Armenia had appealed to ally Russia for military support in protecting its territorial integrity, according to their military pact.
“Since Azerbaijan has attacked Armenia’s sovereign territory we are asking Russia to defend Armenia’s territorial integrity based on an existing 1987 (mutual defence) agreement between our countries,” the Interfax news agency quoted Armen Grigoryan, the secretary of Armenia’s Security Council, as saying.
Russia has a military base in Armenia as well as a peacekeeping force in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Both Armenia and Azerbaijan said the situation along their border remained tense with clashes continuing on Tuesday afternoon.
Since last year’s war, the countries have reported occasional exchanges of fire along their shared border, sparking fears of another flare-up in their territorial dispute.
On Sunday, they traded accusations of opening fire at their border near Karabakh.
On Saturday, Nagorno-Karabakh authorities said the only road connecting Armenia to the separatist enclave – the Lachin corridor – was briefly closed due to an incident between the two sides.
Ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, and the ensuing conflict killed about 30,000 people.