Armenian, Azeri Defense Ministers Meet

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The defense ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan held a rare face-to-face meeting on Friday to discuss ceasefire violations along the Armenian-Azeri border and near Nagorno-Karabakh which seem to have been more frequent this year. The Armenian Defense Ministry said Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian and his Azeri counterpart Safar Abiyev met at the western most section of the heavily militarized frontier at the initiative of an OSCE official monitoring the ceasefire regime in the Armenian-Azeri conflict zone. "During the meeting they discussed issues of mutual concern relating to border control and maintenance of the truce," the ministry said in a brief statement. It did not specify whether the two men reached any agreemen’s. "I have nothing to add to the statement," the ministry spokesman, Seyran Shahsuvarian, told RFE/RL, adding only that OSCE field representatives were not present at the talks. Abiyev and Sarkisian met at one of the tensest sections of the frontline that has seen regular deadly skirmishes between Armenian and Azeri forces deployed in the area. Numerous exchanges of automatic gunfire have also been reported in recent months from the main Armenian-Azeri line of contact east of Karabakh. An Armenian soldier, Aleksandr Papakhchian, was shot and fatally wounded there, reportedly by an Azeri sniper, last weekend. The 19-year-old conscript died in a Yerevan hospital on Monday. Another soldier, warrant officer Garnik Melian, was reportedly shot dead late last month near the scene of the defense ministers’ meeting.

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