At least six soldiers, four of whom Armenians, have been killed as fighting continued in Karabakh over the weekend.Armenia’s Defense Ministry said the fighting began in the northeast of Karabakh late on Friday. It said an Azerbaijani sabotage unit attacked Karabakh Armenian positions there, killing four and wounding as many Armenia soldiers before retreating into Azerbaijani-controlled territory, leaving one dead.
Exchange of fire has continued over the weekend. Azerbaijan’s Military said on Monday, that one more Azerbaijani soldier has been killed during a night-attack by Armenian forces. It also claimed “losses occurred on the Armenian side”, but the statement has been dismissed by Armenian military officials.
This worst fighting in more than two years occurred a day after presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan met in Saint Petersburg, Russia for fresh peace talks hosted by their Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev.
Official Yerevan portrayed it as a further indication that the Azerbaijani leadership is “doing everything” to scuttle the Karabakh peace process mediated by Russia, the United States and France. Officials in Baku dismissed the claim.
There are speculations in Yerevan, that the Azerbaijani attack was aimed at prodding the international community to seek more Armenian concessions to Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Aliyev left St. Petersburg right after talks with his Armenian counterpart.
Aliyev didn’t attend the economic summit, which was the main reason, why Armenian and Azerbaijani president’s had visited St. Petersburg in the first place.
This raises questions about the content of the talks and the attack that followed. Was Aliyev so displeased with talks, that he left Russia earlier than planned and ordered an attack? Is this another sign of escalation? Or was it a coincidence?
There were also talks, that Karabakh is preparing for war, Defense Army is being mobilized, etc. A Karabakh-based blogger, Hayk Khanuyan, dismissed those rumors, saying Football World Cup dominated worries and news-agenda in Stepanakert, capital of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.
On another note, there was criticism around the Armenian blogosphere, that the authorities in Yerevan were too ‘mild’ and ‘dilpomatic’ in their statements regarding the attack, while the authorities in Stepanakert kept silent altogether. The reserved tone of the Armenian authorities was interpreted as a decision to avoid further escalation of the conflict by using inflammatory rhetoric.
P.S. When the Azerbaijani attack was reported on Saturday, it somehow reminded of the Georgian-Russian war which started on the day when the Olympic games were starting in China. Likewise, much of world’s attention is glued to the Football World Cup these days…