YEREVAN (Arka)—“Airspace over Karabakh is closed indeed, but only for the Azerbaijani air force,” Artsakh’s Presidential spokesman David Babayan said in commenting a recent statement by the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry after the downing of an Artsakh helicopter. On Wednesday, Artsakh’s Ministry of Defense reported that Azerbaijan downed one of the Artsakh Air Force’s Mi-24 helicopters operating a training flight.
In general, the situation along the line of contact is stable, but Azerbaijan is still keeping the incident location under fire, Babayan said. “It is another act of vandalism and terrorism by a country that has gradually turned into a fascist state, hounding their own civil society, human rights activists and the opposition,” Babayan said. In commenting Wednesday’s statement by the OSCE Minsk Group on the incident, Babayan said the statement is balanced and contains no condemnation of the attacking side. “But the important thing is the co-chairs once again re-affirm unacceptability of use of force,” he said.
In their statement, the co-chairs said they are deeply worried by the development and described the incident as “the first of its kind” since the ceasefire agreement was reached in the conflict zone in 1994. The mediators called on the sides to avoid escalation of tensions.
“Shooting down an NKR Defense Army Air Force helicopter by Azerbaijan during training flight near the line of contact is an unprecedented violation of the ceasefire fraught with serious escalation of tension in the conflict zone,” Artsakh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
“This criminal and adventurous provocation by Azerbaijan has not only become a gross violation of the obligations taken by Azerbaijan to find a peaceful settlement of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Nagorno Karabakh, but also demonstrated its total disregard towards the OSCE Minsk Group co-chair countries and the international community as a whole,” the Ministry said.
“The incident indicates, yet again, the need of intensifying efforts to develop and take urgent measures to de-escalate the tension and, first of all, to establish an effective mechanism for investigation of ceasefire violations, which has been repeatedly proposed by the Armenian sides and supported by the OSCE Minsk Group,” the statement reads.
“The soonest development and implementation of a mechanism for investigation of incidents will allow identifying the true perpetrator of the ceasefire regime violations, that is, Azerbaijan, and avoid untargeted calls on the parties to the conflict, which create a false sense of permissiveness and impunity in Azerbaijan,” the statement said.