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Armenia, Azerbaijan exchange artillery fire, sides blame each other for firing

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Wednesday, July 15
Three Azerbaijani servicemen were killed in a clash on the border between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Eurasianet reported it as the heaviest fighting in years between them. The parties blame each other for starting the shooting. Both sides used artillery, mortars and tanks during the incident, which took place along the north-eastern border of Armenia and the western border of Azerbaijan, near the Armenian village of Tavush.

According to a spokesman for the Armenian army, which was the first to report the clash, the shooting began on the afternoon of July 12th. “During the incident in the north-eastern part of Armenia, after being warned by the Armenian side, the enemy troops left the vehicle and returned to their position; Less than an hour later, Azerbaijani soldiers tried to occupy our position using artillery fire, but were repulsed and lost soldiers,” Stepanian said.

According to the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan, the Armenian side started firing to occupy a strategic position.

"The Armenian Armed Forces tried to use artillery to occupy our position in the direction of Tovuz on the state border between Azerbaijan and Armenia," the ministry said in a statement. “As a result of the retaliatory steps of our units, the enemy was defeated and retreated with losses. During the clash, 2 Azerbaijani servicemen were killed and 5 were wounded,” writes the Ministry of Defence of Azerbaijan.

On the night of July 13th, also in the morning, there were reports of shootings again. According to a reviewer for the Nagorno Karabakh Observer, the shooting took place in an area where Azerbaijan occupies more elevated territory. According to Eurasianet, the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan released a video on July 13th, where it should be seen that they are attacking the Armenian checkpoint. According to the Nagorno Karabakh Observer, this is the only Armenian checkpoint in the area that is elevated.

The Armenian Foreign Ministry said that artillery fire from Azerbaijan ‘retreated’ late on July 13th, and that Yerevan was in full control of the situation.

“The political and military leadership of Armenia bears full responsibility for the provocation,” Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said on July 13th. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Fashinyan has accused Azerbaijan of ‘provocation that will not go unanswered.’

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said that several officers, including a general and a colonel, were killed while repelling an attack by the Armenian Armed Forces in the Tovuz region, on the border with Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan’s Deputy Defense Minister Karim Valiyev told reporters that intense fighting took place overnight between July 13th and 14th. “About a hundred warriors, numerous military equipment and critical objects have been destroyed,” he said. One civilian was also reported killed in an artillery attack by Armenian troops in the Tovuz district.

Less than a week before the clash, Aliyev strongly criticized diplomatic talks with Armenia. The purpose of this negotiation is to end the 30-year-old conflict between the two sides.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry immediately issued a statement condemning the Armenian attack.

Armenia, a member of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization, has appealed to the organization. Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan called the organization's secretary general, Stanislav Zas, and told him that Azerbaijan had violated the ceasefire and that such an action against a member of the treaty was unacceptable, Eurasianet reported.

The President of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili expressed her concern over the armed confrontation that took place on the border between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

“Today, as we all fight together against an invisible enemy, international solidarity and the maintenance of global stability are of paramount importance. The peace and security of our region is important for the future development and prosperity of Georgia as well as of our friend and partner states - Azerbaijan and Armenia,” Zurabishvili said, expressing hope that the necessary measures will be taken in a timely manner and that further escalation of the situation will be avoided through peaceful negotiations.

The US State Department has called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to adhere to the ceasefire. The United States strongly condemns the violence on the internationally recognized border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the State Department said in a statement.

“We urge the parties to immediately cease the use of force and use the means of direct communication available to prevent further escalation and to adhere strictly to the ceasefire agreement,” said State Department spokesman Morgan Ortagus.

According to the statement, as Co-Chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, the United States remains committed to assisting the parties in the long-term, peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The European Union, the United States and Russia have called for restraint in a series of July 13th statements.

Baku and Yerevan have been in conflict for years over Nagorno-Karabakh, an internationally recognized region of Azerbaijan. Armenian-backed separatists gained control of this predominantly Armenian-populated region of Azerbaijan during the war in the early 1990s. The war killed up to 30,000 people. Diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict have not made significant progress.