Armenian Azerbaijani Ministers Meet to Cool Rising Tensions

YEREVAN (RFE/RL–Armenpress)–Armenian Defense Minister Serge Sarkisian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Safar Abiyev agreed on July 8 to ease the tension between the two countries’ armed forces. The two men met on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border between the Ijevan and Kazakh districts.

According to an Armenian Defense Ministry statement issued today in Yerevan–the Armenian and Azerbaijani defense chiefs agreed to take the necessary measures to prevent armed clashes and exchanges of gunfire on the front line separating Armenian and Azerbaijani forces.

Earlier this week–officials in Baku accused Armenia of attacking Azerbaijani forces in an area controlled by the armed forces of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Earlier this week–an Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman denied the Azerbaijani accusations–saying that he was not aware of any armed clash on the border. Defense officials in Nagorno-Karabakh said that the situation on the front-line is calm. Later–a Karabakh spokesman told a local newspaper that Azerbaijani armed units tried to cross the front line.

According to the Armenian Defense Ministry statement–Azerbaijani Defense Minister Safar Abiyev handed over to the Armenian side Armenian citizen Robert Mihranian–who was captured by the Azeri side when he accidentally crossed the border on June 29. The statement said that Mihranian is a resident of the Aigeshat border village and the Azeri side handed him over without setting any conditions.

Azeri Foreign Minister Vilayat Guliyev–meanwhile–announced that the handing over of talks to the two defense ministers does not signify a lack of supervision; rather–considering that Azerbaijan and Armenia are engaged in war–it is more practical that the defense ministers of the two sides meet rather than the foreign ministers.

The cease-fire agreement signed between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 1994 is largely holding without major violations of the truce–and both sides frequently cite it as a major achievement that put an end to the war that claimed 20,000 lives.

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