Two Armenian soldiers killed by Azerbaijani fire; post peace negotiations

Armenia reports two soldiers killed by Azerbaijani fire, marking the first fatal incident since peace negotiations began last year amidst ongoing tensions over Nagorno-Karabakh.

In a significant event, Armenia reported on Tuesday that two of its soldiers were killed by Azerbaijani fire along the heavily fortified border, marking the first fatal incident since negotiations began last year to end more than 30 years of intermittent conflict between the two countries. According to Armenia’s Defence Ministry, the incident occurred near the southern Armenian village of Nerkin Hand, where two soldiers lost their lives and several others were wounded at a combat post.

In response, Azerbaijan’s border service declared that it conducted a “revenge operation” following what it described as a “provocation” by Armenian forces the previous day. The statement warned of further retaliatory measures against any future provocations, squarely placing the blame on Armenia’s military and political leadership for the incident.

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Azerbaijan’s Defence Ministry claimed that Armenian forces had fired at positions in Baku along a northwestern section of the border, refuting Armenia’s denial of such an occurrence. The long-standing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan revolves around the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which Azerbaijan reclaimed in a swift military offensive in September, resulting in the displacement of the region’s Armenian population. Despite sporadic exchanges of fire over the years, the border had seen relative calmness since the peace talks commenced, particularly following the fall of Karabakh in September 2023.

The peace negotiations, however, have  hit a roadblock, with both sides accusing each other of obstructing the diplomatic process. While hopes for a lasting resolution were buoyed by the talks, the recent escalation underscores the fragility of the situation and the potential for renewed hostilities. The incident serves as a stark reminder of the unresolved tensions and the need for continued international efforts to broker a lasting peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

As the region grapples with the fallout from this latest escalation, observers are closely monitoring the situation, wary of any further escalation that could jeopardize the fragile peace. The incident highlights the delicate balance that must be maintained to prevent a return to full-scale conflict and underscores the urgency of resuming meaningful dialogue to address the underlying grievances and forge a path towards lasting reconciliation.