Azerbaijan says soldier killed in act of ‘provocation’ by Armenian army

Baku says an Azerbaijani soldier has been killed near the border with Armenia in an act of “provocation” by Armenian troops, nearly two weeks after the neighbors held talks to ease tensions leftover from last year’s war.

Azerbaijan’s defense ministry said in a statement that a soldier “was killed overnight as a result of a provocation by Armenia’s armed forces” near the Kalbajar border between the two countries.

According to Azerbaijani officials, the soldier died in a shootout with Armenian troops.

“Full responsibility for the escalation lies with Armenia’s political and military leaders,” the statement added.

The Armenian Defense Ministry said on Thursday that Azerbaijan opened fire on its positions on the eastern part of their shared border on Wednesday night.

Tensions between Yerevan and Baku remain high a year after the arch-foes fought a war over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. The six-week conflict, which claimed more than 6,500 lives on both sides, ended in November 2020 with a Russian-brokered deal that left Azerbaijan largely in control of the territory.

Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but is populated by ethnic Armenians since all Azerbaijanis fled their homes in the first Karabakh war in 1988. 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.

Late last month, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev met for direct talks under the mediation of Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss ways to resolve disputes leftover from last year’s war.

The rare meeting took place less than two weeks after the two countries agreed to a ceasefire at their border on November 16 to end the worst fighting since last year’s war.

Aliyev and Pashinyan are scheduled to meet again in Brussels next week for talks brokered by the European Council President Charles Michel.

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