The Republic of Azerbaijan has declared joint military drills with Turkey and Georgia, a move which is likely to increase tensions with neighboring Armenia prior to talks with Yerevan over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
“To increase the combat capabilities and combat readiness of the Azerbaijan, Turkey and Georgia, we deemed it worthwhile to carry out joint military exercises,” Azerbaijan’s Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov said on Sunday, without specifying when the exercises would be carried out.
At least 46 people have been killed since April 1, when fighting broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Karabakh.
On Friday, Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said an Azeri soldier had been killed by Armenian fire on Thursday.
On the Armenian side, a serviceman died of wounds on Saturday after reportedly being targeted by an Azeri sniper near southwestern Armenian border.
On April 3, Baku announced a “unilateral” ceasefire as a gesture of goodwill, warning, however, that it would strike back if its forces came under attack. Bouts of fighting were reported soon afterward.
The landlocked Karabakh region, which is located in the Azerbaijan Republic but is populated by Armenians, has been under the control of local ethnic Armenian militia and Armenian troops since a three-year war, which claimed over 30,000 lives, ended between the two republics in 1994 through mediation by Russia.
The presidents of the Republic of Azerbaijan and Armenia, as well as diplomats from Russia, the US and France, are to meet in the Austrian capital of Vienna on Monday to discuss the situation in the volatile Nagorno-Karabakh.