Armenia and Azerbaijan accepted a ceasefire mediated by Russian peacekeepers on Wednesday, after a border firefight between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces left three Armenian soldiers dead, and injured four Armenian and two Azerbaijani soldiers.
Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense announced that it was adhering to the ceasefire, but accused Armenian forces of continuing to shell Azerbaijani positions with tank fire and 120mm mortars despite the start of the ceasefire. Armenia’s Ministry of Defense states that the ceasefire is holding as of midday local time, saying that Armenian mortar shelling was a response to Azerbaijani mortars.
As with previous ceasefire violations, both nations’ defense ministries blame each other for the “provocations” that resulted in the hours-long firefight, amongst the worst fighting seen since the November peace agreement. Armenia claims to have beaten back an Azerbaijani push into Armenian defense lines in the border province of Gegharkunik, while Azerbaijan alleges its forces across the border in the Kalbajar region were conducting “retaliatory actions” to suppress Armenian positions that had fired on them overnight. Both militaries claim to be “in control” of the border situation.
While answers as to who shot first remain as elusive as ever, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev had stated on Tuesday that “90 percent” of a long term peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan had been agreed to, saying that he thought that such an agreement could be signed in the coming months should “the principles of realism prevail”. Even if it were not Azerbaijani forces firing the first shots, continued outbursts of fighting provide Baku with opportunities to further pressure Yerevan to come to the negotiating table.
Statements out of Yerevan accuse Baku of doing exactly that, with Armenia’s Ministry of Defense stating that the Wednesday firefight broke out before the start of Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations in Moscow. The Armenian foreign ministry says that Armenia will “use all its military-political tools in accordance with international law” to secure its territorial integrity.