Two soldiers have died from each side during a fresh flareup of tensions between neighboring Azerbaijan and Armenia ahead of planned talks between the leaders of the two countries.
The fatalities were caused on Friday amid crossfire between the two sides, as Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azeri President Ilham Aliyev prepare to discuss a Russia-brokered 2020 peace deal in Brussels on Sunday.
According to Armenia’s defense ministry, the country’s forces came under fire with drones, mortars, and small arms near the village of Sotk, close to the border. “In the wake of enemy fire, the Armenian side has one killed in action and one wounded,” the ministry said.
Meanwhile, Azerbaijan’s defense ministry said its troops had repelled a drone attack by Armenian forces on the Azeri military’s positions in the Kalbajar District. It later reported that one of its servicemen had been killed, but said the Azeri troops had controlled the situation.
Over the past 30 years, the two sides have engaged in two wars over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The region is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but has a primarily Armenian population that has resisted Azerbaijani rule since a separatist war there ended in 1994.
In 2020, the second Karabakh war broke out, killing more than 6,500 people on both sides during a six-week conflict. The war ended with the Moscow-mediated deal that saw Yerevan cede swathes of the Azerbaijani territory that it had been holding for several decades.
Last month, Azerbaijan set up a checkpoint on the only land route connecting Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh.
The controversial move contravened the peace deal, which specifies that the region must be under Russian control.