By Mark Dovich
Yerevan and Baku exchanged ceasefire violation accusations Thursday, as the United Nations chief urged de-escalation in Karabakh, now entering its fourth day under Azerbaijani blockade.
Armenia’s Defense Ministry reported that Azerbaijani troops opened fire overnight on two Armenian military positions, one in the eastern region of Gegharkunik, and the in the southern Syunik region.
Meanwhile, Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said that Armenian units opened fire Wednesday evening on Azerbaijani positions in the regions of Kelbajar and Lachin, two regions that Armenia ceded to Azerbaijan after the 2020 Karabakh war.
The ministry added that Karabakh soldiers opened fire Thursday morning at Azerbaijani positions near the region of Martuni in eastern Karabakh.
Karabakh’s Defense Army denied Azerbaijan’s claims as “not corresponding to reality.”
They mark the first reported ceasefire violations by any side since a group of Azerbaijanis posing as environmental activists began blocking the only road connecting Armenia and Karabakh Monday morning. Karabakh’s natural gas supply was cut the following evening.
A spokesperson for UN Secretary-General António Guterres issued a statement Wednesday calling for “the sides to de-escalate tensions and to ensure freedom and security of movement along the corridor” connecting Armenia and Karabakh.
Earlier in the day, Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan met with Guterres in New York City to discuss the crisis.
The Russian peacekeepers stationed in Karabakh said in their daily bulletin Wednesday evening that their commanders “continued the negotiation process with the Azerbaijani and Armenian sides to stabilize the situation and unblock the Goris-Stepanakert highway.”
The peacekeepers have explicitly blamed Azerbaijan for closing the road.
Azerbaijan’s ongoing blockade of Karabakh has raised fears of an imminent humanitarian crisis in the region, which has been effectively cut off from the outside world.