A week after the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan, with the mediation of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen, in a statement, pledged to adhere to international calls for ceasefires during the global COVID-19 crisis, Azerbaijani forces launched mortar attacks on Thursday against Artsakh positions.
According to the Artsakh Defense Ministry, at 3 p.m. local time on Wednesday. and, again, at 5:25 p.m., Azerbaijani forces used what was described as 60 millimeter mortars to fire on Artsakh Armed Forces positions in the eastern front of Martuni.
Artsakh soldiers retaliated and repelled the attacks. The Artsakh Defense Ministry reported no casualties.
Wednesday’s attack was the first time since June that the Azerbaijani armed forces have used mortars, while other ceasefire violations by Azerbaijani forces have been regularly reported.
Last week, the Air Defense unit of the Artsakh Armed Forces reported downing an Azerbaijani drone, with defense officials in Stepanakert reporting an increase in aerial reconnaissance missions by Azerbaijan. The incident took place hours before the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers, Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and Elmar Mammadyarov were to hold a video conference, with the participation of the Minsk Group Co-chairmen, to discuss the current stage of the Karabakh conflict settlement process.
That same day, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed that both parties were working toward a phased approach to the Karabakh settlement, which entails a so-called “return of territories” to Azerbaijan. Mnatsakanyan refuted Lavrov’s statement, and a day later, the foreign ministry said that a phased—or stage-by-stage—approach to conflict settlement was not on the negotiating table and was rejected by Yerevan.