STEPANAKERT, YEREVAN—Another soldier of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic was killed on the border while repelling a two-pronged attack by Azeri soldiers, ahead of talks between the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan scheduled for January 24.
Karabakh Army junior sergeant Armen Hovhannisyan was killed on January 20 after overnight combat to quell Azeri attacks at the Karabakh-Azerbaijan border.
The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Defense Ministry’s press office reported that late on January 19 and into the early hours of January 20 Karabakh forces had to resort to active defenses to stop two simultaneous attacks by Azeri forces in the northeastern (Jraberd) and southeastern (Korgan) directions near Karabakh.
“Spotting the actions of the Azeri sabotage groups in both directions the detachments of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Defense Army switched to organized defens and, inflicting considerable personnel and material losses on the enemy, forced them to retreat to their original positions,” said a statement from the Karabakh Defense Ministry.
The ministry said Hovhannisyan “courageously executing the combat task was killed with an enemy bullet.”
Nagorno-Karabakh Republic President Bako Sahakian signed a decree awarding Hovhannisyan the Karabakh Medal of Courage “for bravery shown during the defense of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic state border.” He will be buried at Yerablour National Cemetery.
The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Foreign Ministry condemned the attack, saying that the Azeris continue to undermine the efforts of the OSCE Minks Group Co-chairmen.
Subversive actions of Azerbaijan undermine the efforts of the Minsk Group Co-charimen.
“The defiant actions of the Azeri side, especially on the eve of the scheduled meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan, prove the aggressive intentions of Azerbaijan and seriously undermine the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chair countries aimed at a peaceful resolution of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Nagorno Karabakh,” said a statement by Karabakh’s Foreign Ministry.
“Yet another flagrant violation of the cease-fire by the armed forces of Azerbaijan that led to bloodshed should be strongly condemned and receive an adequate assessment of the international community,” added the Karabakh Foreign Ministry.
The US Minsk Group co-chairmen James Warlick said border skirmishes undermine his group’s efforts to address the conflict resolution process, once again, failing to condemn Azerbaijan for its continued provocation along the line of contact.
“Violence and tensions along the Line of Contact undermine efforts to bring about a negotiated settlement,” said Warlick said in a Twitter post, adding that he regrets the death as a result of the border incident in the early hours of January 20.
President Serzh Sarkisian met with the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus Philippe Lefort, and expressed his concern regarding this latest violations of the cease-fire by Azerbaijan and emphasized that they create serious obstacles for the further progress of the peace process.
Meanwhile in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said only the parties fo the conflict can achieve lasting peace in the region.
“Russia, along with the other OSCE Minsk Group co-chairing countries, is trying to contribute to this dialogue on the settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. The Co-Chairs have concrete proposals, which the parties have not rejected, but additional efforts are needed to reach an agreement. We are ready to contribute to the settlement, but cannot do the work for the parties,” Lavrov told a news conference.