Armenia and Azerbaijan blame each other for border shootings

Armenia and Azerbaijan have traded accusations of opening fire along their volatile shared border, AFP reports.

Leaders of the two countries have repeatedly expressed optimism about the prospect of reaching a lasting peace agreement, but ongoing territorial disputes between the historic foes pose an ever-present risk of renewed conflict.

Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry said that "units of the Armenian Armed Forces on 1 April opened fire with small arms on Azerbaijani army positions" near the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic, an Azerbaijani exclave along the border with Iran and southern Armenia.

Armenia's defense ministry said the claim "does not correspond to reality“ and accused Baku of firing first.

"Units of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces opened fire on Armenian fighting positions on April 1 at 10:00 a.m. in Kut, and on April 2 at 12:40 p.m. in Tegh," the ministry said, referring to two different areas on the countries' common border.

The allegations of new clashes come after Azerbaijan accused Armenia of "concentrating live force, armored vehicles, artillery pieces and other heavy firepower" near the border.

Azerbaijan said it had observed "intensive movement of (Armenian) troops in different directions".

"We warn that in case of any attempt of military provocation by the Armenian armed forces against Azerbaijan, it will be decisively suppressed by the Azerbaijani army," Baku said.

Armenia has rejected the accusations. Its defense ministry said its military was carrying out "purely defensive engineering work within its sovereign territory".

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said a comprehensive peace deal was on the way after Baku retook the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenian separatists last year in a lightning military offensive.

The former Soviet republics have fought two wars for control of the mountainous region - most recently in 2020 and in the 1990s during the collapse of the Soviet Union - that claimed thousands of lives on both sides.

After Baku retook Karabakh in a one-day offensive last September, the entire ethnic Armenian population of the enclave - more than 100,000 people - fled to Armenia. / BGNES