Armenia Threatens ‘Severe Consequences’ After Azeri Border Shooting Kills Two

YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Armenia threatened Azerbaijan with “severe consequences” on Friday after two of its soldiers were shot dead on its border with the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhijevan.

According to the Armenian military, the 26-year-old Andranik Yeghoyan and Boris Gasparian, 22, were killed on Thursday, June 5, by sniper from Azerbaijani army positions located about 70 kilometers southeast of Yerevan. The area is much closer to Nakhijevan’s short border with Turkey.

“For several days the enemy created tension, through disinformation and various political provocations, on the Nakhijevan border,” said Artsrun Hovannisian, the Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman. “We lost two soldiers as a result of yesterday’s shooting. The enemy was silenced after we returned fire.”

There has been no official reaction yet from the Azerbaijani side.

Ceasefire violations on Armenia’s border with Nakhijevan have been very rare unlike at other sections of the long Armenian-Azerbaijani frontier and “the line of contact” around Nagorno-Karabagh. Still, armed incidents there appear to have somewhat increased since last year. An Azerbaijani soldier serving in Nakhijevan was reported killed in action on Monday.

The ensuing fatal shooting of the two Armenian servicemen prompted Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian to hold an emergency meeting in Yerevan with Andrzej Kasprzyk, the chief OSCE official monitoring the ceasefire regime in the Karabagh conflict zone.

According to Hovannisian, Ohanian asked Kasprzyk to help ease tensions on the frontlines. The minister warned that “the situation is fraught with very severe consequences for Azerbaijan,” Hovannisian said.

The shootings around Nakhijevan followed an upsurge in fighting at a section of the Karabagh frontline adjacent to Iran. One Armenian and two Azerbaijani soldiers were killed there last week in what the Karabagh Armenian army described as a failed Azerbaijani commando attack. The Azerbaijani military said that Armenian forces themselves attacked its frontline positions in the area southeast of Karabagh.

The Nakhijevan incidents led official Yerevan to accuse Baku on Friday of torpedoing the latest international efforts to kick-start the Karabagh peace process. Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharian claimed that Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev is specifically trying to scuttle a fresh meeting with his Armenian counterpart Serge Sargisian, which is sought by the US, Russian and French mediators.

“The mediators are intent on trying to end this stalemate,” Kocharian said. “This is at odds with Azerbaijan’s actions. They are doing everything to prevent a step forward in the negotiation process,” he said.

Several officers and soldiers from both sides have been killed in shootings in the last several weeks along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, as well as near the administrative boundary of Azerbaijan’s breakaway Nagorno-Karabagh region.