Two Armenian soldiers killed by Azerbaijani fire in first major incident since talks began

By Thomson Reuters Feb 13, 2024 | 1:56 AM

TBILISI (Reuters) -Armenia said on Tuesday that two of its soldiers had been killed by Azerbaijani fire along the heavily militarised border, the first fatal incident since the two sides began negotiating a deal to end more than 30 years of intermittent war last year.

Armenia’s Defence Ministry said in a statement posted on the Telegram messaging app that two of its soldiers had been killed and several more wounded at a combat post near the southern Armenian village of Nerkin Hand.

Azerbaijan’s border service said in a statement that it staged a “a revenge operation” in retaliation for a “provocation” it said Armenian forces had committed the day before.

It said that further “provocations” would be met with “more serious and decisive measures from now on.”

“The military and political leadership of Armenia is fully responsible for the incident.”

Azerbaijan’s Defence Ministry said that Armenian forces on Monday evening fired at Baku’s positions along a northwestern section of the border, around 300 kilometres (186 miles) from Nerkin Hand. Armenia’s Defence Ministry denied that such an incident took place.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in conflict for over three decades over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Azerbaijan in September retook Karabakh in a lightning offensive, prompting a rapid exodus of almost all of the territory’s Armenian inhabitants, and a renewed push from both sides for a treaty to formally end the conflict.

Although fatal exchanges of fire between Armenia and Azerbaijan have been common for decades, the border had become more peaceful since the start of talks, with little serious fighting since the collapse of Karabakh in Sept. 2023.

The peace talks have in recent months appeared to stagnate, with both sides accusing the other of sabotaging the diplomatic process.

(Reporting by Felix Light in Tbilisi and Nailia Bagirova in Baku; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)