Yerevan, Armenia (AFP) – Armenian and Azerbaijani officials on Saturday accused each other of violating the peace agreement that ended six weeks of fierce fighting around Nagorno Karabakh, and the Azerbaijani leader threatened to crush Armenian forces with an “iron fist”.
The new clashes represent the first major breach of the peace agreement brokered by Russia on November 10, which saw Azerbaijan regain control of large swaths of Nagorno Karabakh and the surrounding lands that Armenian forces occupied for more than a quarter of a century.
Separatist officials in Nagorno Karabakh said that the Azerbaijani army launched an attack on Friday evening, wounding three soldiers of Armenian origin.
Russian peacekeepers deployed in the area to monitor the peace agreement reported a ceasefire violation in the Gadrut region on Friday. The report released by the Russian Defense Ministry on Saturday did not take the blame.
Later in the day, the Armenian Ministry of Defense accused the Azerbaijani army of launching an attack in southern Nagorno Karabakh on Saturday.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev responded on Saturday by blaming Armenia for the fresh clashes and threatening to “break her head with an iron fist.”
“Armenia should not try to start over,” Aliyev said during a meeting with senior diplomats from the United States and France who tried to mediate in the decades-old conflict. You should be very careful and not plan any military action. This time, we will completely destroy them. It should not be a secret for anyone. “
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said in a statement on Saturday evening that its forces had thwarted Armenian “provocations” and restored the ceasefire.
Armenian officials said fighting broke out near the villages of Hin Tagger and Khatsabird, the only settlements in the Gadrut region still under the control of Armenian forces. They indicated that the two villages are completely surrounded by the Azerbaijani army, which controls the only road leading to them.
Nagorno-Karabakh is located inside Azerbaijan but has been under the control of Armenian ethnic forces backed by Armenia since the separatist war ended there in 1994. That war left Nagorno-Karabakh itself and large surrounding areas in Armenian hands.
In 44 days of fighting that began in late September and killed more than 5,600 people on both sides, the Azerbaijani army incursion into the Nagorno-Karabakh region, forcing Armenia to accept last month’s peace agreement that saw Azerbaijan regain a large part of the breakaway region along with the regions. Surrounding. Russia has deployed nearly 2,000 peacekeepers for at least five years to monitor the peace agreement and facilitate the return of refugees.
Azerbaijan celebrated its victory with a military parade on Thursday attended by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in which more than 3,000 soldiers, dozens of military vehicles and a combat aircraft participated.
The peace agreement was a major shock to the Armenians, sparking protests calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Nikola Pashinyan, who refused to step down. He described the peace agreement as a bitter but necessary step that prevented Azerbaijan from taking over the entire Nagorno-Karabakh.
Associated Press writers Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and Aida Sultanova in London contributed to this report.