Home Europe Fatal clashes in Nagorno-Karabakh as Armenia-Azerbaijan peace talks begin in DC

Fatal clashes in Nagorno-Karabakh as Armenia-Azerbaijan peace talks begin in DC

by editor

YEREVAN — Four Armenian servicemen were killed after Azerbaijan carried out strikes along the tense contact line in Nagorno-Karabakh in the early hours of Wednesday morning, officials in the breakaway region have said.

In a statement, the Armenian-backed government of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic said its troops came under heavy artillery fire and drone attacks overnight, but that the situation has since stabilized.

The day prior, Azerbaijan’s defense ministry alleged one of its troops had been shot in the isolated mountain territory. Karabakh Armenian officials deny the claims, saying Baku created the pretext “for a new provocation.”

The clashes come as high-stakes peace talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan began in Washington. Foreign ministers from both sides met with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday ahead of trilateral negotiations slated to continue until Thursday.

“The U.S. is encouraged by recent efforts of Armenia and Azerbaijan to engage productively on the peace process,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said ahead of the summit.

In a bid to secure a peace deal, Yerevan has vowed to recognize Nagorno-Karabakh, inside Azerbaijan’s internationally agreed borders, as Baku’s sovereign territory — despite objections from the region’s ethnic Armenian administration.

In 2020, the two former Soviet republics fought a brutal war over the territory, governed as a de facto independent Armenian state since the fall of the USSR, with Azerbaijan taking back swathes of land. A Moscow-brokered cease-fire saw Russian peacekeepers deployed. However, both sides say they have lost faith in the agreement holding, and analysts warn the risk of a new full-scale conflict is rising.

Since December, Baku has taken control over the only road linking Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia and, after a firefight with Yerevan’s troops earlier this month, shut off access to civilian traffic and aid convoys, leaving its population without access to supplies. Baku insists the measures are temporary but has called on the region’s Armenians to lay down their arms and accept being ruled as part of Azerbaijan.

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