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13th Apr 2024

Shots fired as EU monitors patrol inside Armenia

  • Some 40 EU monitors arrived in Armenia in January (Photo: @EUmARMENIA)
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EU monitors in Armenia have said they were present when shots were fired near the Azerbaijani border on Tuesday (15 August).

"We confirm that EUMA [EU Mission in Armenia] patrol has been present to the shooting incident in our area of responsibility," they said in a statement.

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  • Mines still litter border areas after more than 40 years of conflict (Photo: halotrust.org)

"No EUMA member was harmed," they added.

The Armenian foreign ministry also said: "On 15 August, at around 12.20 PM, Azerbaijani AF [armed forces] units discharged fire from firearms targeting the EU observers patrolling in the vicinity of Verin Shorzha and their vehicle. There are no casualties."

The EU sent some 40 civilian monitors to patrol the tense border in January.

They arrived after Azerbaijan seized new territory in Armenia after a 'Two-Day War' last September, in which 300 people died.

Azerbaijan also reconquered the Nagorno-Karabakh region from Armenia in 2020 in the second Nagorno-Karabakh War, which caused some 7,000 casualties and prompted Russia to send 2,000 peacekeeping troops to the area.

And Baku's EU ambassador, Vaqif Sadıqov, issued a death threat on Twitter against a delegation of MEPs who visited the conflict zone earlier this summer.

"Guys, keep clear of Azerbaijani state border," Sadıqov said, next to a picture of an Azeri-made sniper rifle.

The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, weighed in on Tuesday's live-fire incident, as Russia and the EU jostle for influence in the South Caucasus.

Russia is meant to protect Armenia under the terms of the Nato-like Collective Security Treaty Organisation of post-Soviet states.

The EU is offering closer trade ties to Armenia and buying ever more oil and gas from Azerbaijan, to bypass Russia.

Lavrov phoned Azerbaijan foreign minister Jeyhun Bayramov and spoke of the need "to deescalate tensions around Nagorno-Karabakh as soon as possible, including unblocking humanitarian routes, such as the Lachin corridor".

But for its part, Azerbaijan's foreign ministry has flat-out refused to recognise any shooting took place.

Meanwhile, the Lachin corridor, which Lavrov mentioned, has become a potential new flashpoint in the simmering ethnic conflict, which dates back to the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Azerbaijan has blocked the mountain road from Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh since December last year, creating food, energy, and medical shortages for the tens of thousands of Armenians who still live there.

The latest in a long line of EU personalities to condemn the situation was French foreign minister Catherine Colonna, also on Tuesday.

"She deplored Azerbaijan's persistent blockade" which had caused a "very serious humanitarian crisis", and "the minister expressed her concern at these incidents [Tuesday's shooting] and gave her full support to the European mission," the Quai d'Orsay said.

The UN Security Council is to discuss the situation on Wednesday.

But Azerbaijan is lobbying European media, including via UK-based firms such as Portland and BTP+ Advisers, on its version of events.

Colonna's words were "regrettable", showed France's "insidious policy" toward Azerbaijan, and were "based on [the] false propaganda of Armenia", Azerbaijan's foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

The fact the French minister mentioned the "misinformation about firing at the European Union Mission in Armenia" also "proves that France is not interested in establishing peace and stability in the region", it said.

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