YEREVAN (Mediamax)—The U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, John Heffern, on Saturday called the Artsakh Army’s special operation to retrieve the bodies of three slain pilots, whose unarmed helicopter was downed by Azeri forces, a “respectful step.”
While speaking to members of the press, Heffern said that the U.S. mission in Armenia has followed the developments around the incident very carefully and has kept in touch with Washington.
“What impressed me the most from my meeting with the Armenian Minister of Defense was the fact that he was focused on retrieval of the remains of the three killed airmen. And that’s exactly what he was able to do. I have a great respect for him for his focus on that, and for his ability to get that done,” Heffern said.
Heffern said that three days after the downing of the helicopter, Armenia’s Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian asked the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairmen to urge Azerbaijan to allow for the safe retrieval of the remains of the Armenian servicemen.
“I talked on the phone to [U.S. Co-Chair] James Warlick, later we talked to his French and Russian counterparts, and, probably the next day, the co-chairs issued a statement. I was pleased that we were able to do the specific thing that the Minister had asked us to do. I don’t know whether the co-chairs have helped with that. But we were able to do what Mr. Ohanian asked us to do,” said Heffern.
On Friday, Armenia’s President Serzh Sarkisian met with the Secretary General of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) Nikolay Bordyuzha in Yerevan, where they discussed the downing of the Artsakh Air Force helicopter and its implications.
According to Bordyuzha, the incident will be discussed during the upcoming meeting of the Collective Security Council of the CSTO in Moscow.
On Nov. 12, an unarmed Mi-24 helicopter belonging to the Artsakh Air Force was shot down by Azerbaijani armed forces while conducting an exercise flight. The area where the helicopter was shot down stayed under fire from Azerbaijani forces continuously following the downing of the aircraft. A special operation was eventually carried out to retrieve the remains of the slain pilots. The Commander of the staff was the Major Sergey Sahakyan, accompanied by Senior Lieutenant Sarkis Nazaryan and Lieutenant Azat Sahakyan.