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Armenia calls for deployment of intl. observers to border with Azerbaijan amid simmering dispute

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Armenia's acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan speaks during a parliament session in Yerevan, Armenia, May 10, 2021. (Photo by Reuters)

Armenia's acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has called for the deployment of international observers from Russia or other countries to a portion of Armenia's border with Azerbaijan, where he said the atmosphere was tense.

"I call on the international community and my proposal is also directed at the leadership of Azerbaijan," Russian news agencies quoted Pashinyan as saying on Thursday.

"Let's agree that the military units from both sides rapidly move away from the border and return to their permanent bases, and station international observers from Russia or other countries in the OSCE Minsk Group," he added.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group — led by Russia, France, and the United States — is tasked with finding a peaceful solution to the conflict in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

In the latest twist in a simmering border dispute, Azerbaijan was reported to have captured six Armenian servicemen in the early hours of Thursday, according to the defense ministries of both countries.

The Azeri defense ministry accused the Armenian soldiers of trying to cross into Azeri territory, while Armenia's defense ministry said its soldiers had been carrying out engineering work in the border area of its eastern Gegharkunik region, which neighbors Azerbaijan.

"Necessary measures are being taken to return the captured servicemen," Armenia's defense ministry said.

Armenia on Tuesday accused Azerbaijan of killing one of its soldiers in a shootout across the border at Armenian positions, but Azerbaijan denied the accusation.

Earlier this month, Yerevan also accused Baku of sending troops across the border and violating a Russian-brokered ceasefire that halted six weeks of fierce clashes between the two sides last year.

Azerbaijani and Armenian military forces engaged in heavy clashes in late September over the disputed Karabakh region, with both sides blaming each other for initiating the fighting in the Caucasus Mountains.

It was the worst spate of fighting between the two former Soviet republics since the 1990s.

Yerevan in November signed a Moscow-brokered deal to end its conflict with Baku over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, committing itself to withdrawal of all its forces from the occupied territories in a move that has outraged Armenians who regard it as “concession of defeat.”

Azerbaijan’s breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh is mainly inhabited by ethnic Armenians. Though a ceasefire was agreed in 1994, Baku and Yerevan continue to accuse each other of shooting attacks around the enclave.  


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