The Russian Foreign Ministry has called for a demarcation of the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan following renewed deadly clashes between the two countries.
The appeal was made by Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova in the wake of the latest escalation, which took place a year after the Caucasus arch-foes fought a war over the disputed mountainous region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
“Recent incidents confirm the importance of starting demarcation and delimitation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani borders as quickly as possible,” the spokeswoman was quoted as saying. She added that Russia was ready to continue assisting Armenia and Azerbaijan alike in maintaining peace and stability in the region and calls on both sides to show restraint.
“It is clear from official statements by Baku and Yerevan that the sides have completely opposite assessments of the situation and are accusing each other for what happened [the shelling of military positions]. Russia is in contact with both Azerbaijan and Armenia to resolve the situation peacefully.”
The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan had earlier in the day discussed the situation on the border by phone and agreed to “continue contacts” on the matter.
Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu held phone conversations with counterparts in Baku and Yerevan and pledged Moscow's help in easing tensions. Armenia has recently announced a Russian-mediated ceasefire on its eastern border with Azerbaijan.
The Russian media said on Tuesday that Armenia had asked Moscow to help defend its territorial sovereignty against attacks by Azerbaijani forces under the 1997 Collective Security Treaty Organization pact, which obliges Moscow to protect it in the event of a foreign invasion.
The Armenian Defense Ministry earlier said its troops had come under heavy fire from Azerbaijan and that 12 of its servicemen were captured, while two combat positions near the border with Azerbaijan were lost.
On the other side, Azerbaijan accused Armenia of provoking the clash and said two of its soldiers had been wounded. Baku said Armenian forces were shelling the Azeri army positions with artillery and mortar fire and added that it had destroyed some Armenian military hardware.
Before the ceasefire was announced, Farhan Haq, a spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, called on the warring sides in the Caucasus region to exercise restraint and address the issue through dialogue.
Tensions between Yerevan and Baku remain high a year after the arch-foes fought a war over Nagorno-Karabakh. The six-week conflict, which claimed more than 6,500 lives on both sides, ended last November with a Russian-brokered deal that left Azerbaijan largely in control of the territory.
Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but has been populated by ethnic Armenians. Russia has deployed 1,960 peacekeepers to the region for an initial five-year period. Since the truce, the two sides have accused each other of breaching the peace deal.