Azerbaijani forces on Friday morning launched a drone attack on Armenia’s Gegharkunik province, as a result 20-year-old Narek Baghdasaryan was killed, Armenia’s Defense Ministry reported. Friday evening, the Azerbaijani side continued its aggression on sovereign Armenian territory by attacking Armenian military forces in the Kut village. The Azeri drone strike came a day after Azeri forces bombarded Armenian positions in the same area.
Friday’s attack came a day after a massive launched by Azerbaijan targeting the Sotk, Verin Shorzha and Norabak villages all in the Vartenis region of the Gegharkunik Province in northeastern Armenia.
Armenia’s Defense Ministry reported that two Armenia soldiers were also injured during Friday’s attack. On Thursday, four soldiers were reportedly injured.
Tensions in the area have run high for the past month. Armenia’s largest gold mine located near Sotk halted production operations in mid-April due to what its management and workers described as cross-border Azerbaijani gunfire. The village sustained heavy damage during more large-scale clashes that broke out at this and other border sections last September.
The heavy fighting comes days before the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan are scheduled to meet in Brussels to discuss normalizing relations in talks hosted by European Council President Charles Michel in Brussels.
The State Department spokesperson Vedan Patel on Thursday stated “this kind of violence, we believe it undermines the progress made by Armenia and Azerbaijan toward a durable and dignified peace, and we call on the leaders of both of these countries that when they convene in Brussels on the 14th…– that these two parties agree to distance their forces along the border, as discussed by Secretary Blinken during their participation of these negotiations that we hosted here in Washington, D.C., at the beginning of May.”
“We believe that there is a clear path forward. We obviously were happy to host these two countries at the beginning of May. We believe that those talks were fruitful and laid the groundwork for a continuation of these talks beginning in Brussels, and we’ll let that process play out.” continued Patel.
Yerevan on Friday countered the United States’s characterization to a large-scale attack launched by Azerbaijan against the Sotk village. “First of all, it was not an exchange of fire but another unprovoked attack by the Azerbaijan’s army, which is well known for its ISIS-like warfare conduct.” stated Edmon Marukyan Armenia’s Ambassador at-Large tweeted. “The Armenian army took necessary steps to defend our sovereign territory.”
“Our demand is that Azerbaijan must withdraw its occupational forces from the sovereign territory of Armenia and return to the internationally recognized borders, i.e. the administrative borders that existed between both countries at the time of independence from the USSR.” Marukyan continued in his tweet. “Third, in 2022, in Prague and Sochi, Azerbaijan committed that it will refrain from the use of force or threat of use of force.”
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian claimed that Baku’s “provocative” actions are aimed at torpedoing the upcoming summit and “nullifying progress” made by the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers during marathon talks held outside Washington last week.
“Experience shows that Azerbaijan needs the negotiation process only to get an escalation and an excuse for war,” he charged during a weekly cabinet meeting in Yerevan.
At the same time, Pashinian said that he still intends to fly to Brussels for the planned trilateral meeting with Aliyev and Michel. He went on to stress that they are unlikely to sign an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace treaty.
The Foreign Ministry of Armenia also issued a statement on Thursday, May 11, 2023, echoing the Prime Ministers sentiment and accusing the Azerbaijani regime of violating “the fundamental principles of international law” and taking actions “aimed at destabilizing the situation,” in “open disregard for the meeting held in Washington, the meetings planned in Brussels and Moscow, aimed at the normalization of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and the efforts made by international partners interested in stability and peace in the South Caucasus.”