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6 Mar, 2023 12:37

Armenia and Azerbaijan trade accusations after deadly shootout

Five people are said to have been killed in a gunfight in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region
Armenia and Azerbaijan trade accusations after deadly shootout

Armenia and Azerbaijan have blamed each other, after an exchange of fire between the two countries' security forces in the contested region of Nagorno-Karabakh on Sunday.

At least five people were killed in the incident, with Yerevan saying three Armenian police officers lost their lives and Baku confirming the deaths of two Azerbaijani troops.

Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Sunday that the gunfight broke out when troops were checking vehicles in the area after obtaining data that unauthorized roads had been used to deliver weapons and military personnel within the region.

Baku called the operation a “provocation” by Armenian security personnel, claiming they began firing before the Azerbaijani military. The incident shows that Armenia “will not give up its occupation policy against Azerbaijan” and that Yerevan’s talk of peace is nothing but “hypocrisy,” Baku claimed.

The statement added that the incident again highlights the need to establish a border inspection regime between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

In a counter-statement, the Armenian Foreign Ministry described the Azerbaijani account of events as “absurd.”

Yerevan claimed its police officers, who worked for the Interior Ministry's Passport and Visa Department, were killed in an “ambush” by Azerbaijani troops. One other officer was seriously wounded in the incident, it added.

It said the van was only transporting official papers and a single service pistol, calling Baku’s claims of weapons and personnel deliveries to Nagorno-Karabakh “disinformation.”

“The actions of the Azerbaijani forces cannot be described as anything other than terrorism,” the ministry insisted.

Yerevan has again called for an international fact-finding mission to be sent to Nagorno-Karabakh and the Lachin corridor, which links the disputed region to Armenian territory.

Armenia and Azerbaijan are engaged in a decades-old dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, a part of Azerbaijan with a predominantly ethnic Armenian population, which declared independence from Baku in the early 1990s.

In 2020, the two former Soviet republics fought a 44-day war for control over the area, which ended in a Russian-brokered truce.

However, tensions remain high between the neighbors, resulting in sporadic border incidents. The most intense flare-up occurred last September, when clashes led to dozens of casualties on both sides.