YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian and Armenia’s top army generals met on Thursday to discuss, among other things, skirmishes with Azerbaijani forces that appear to have intensified since the start of the new year.
The Armenian Defense Ministry said the meeting touched upon ongoing efforts to boost the combat readiness of Armenian frontline troops. It said Ohanian, the chief of the Armenian army’s General Staff, Colonel-General Yuri Khachaturov, their deputies and the heads of ministry departments also mapped out further training activities for military personnel.
A ministry statement added that Khachaturov presented a report on Azerbaijani armed “provocations” of the past week and Armenian “steps taken in response to them.” It gave no details.
The Armenian and Azerbaijani militaries, meanwhile, reported fresh truce violations on “the line of contact” around Artsakh and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. The Artsakh Defense Army said Azerbaijani troops fired more than 5,000 gunshots and seven mortar rounds on its frontline positions late on Wednesday and early Thursday. It also strongly denied opening fire on Azerbaijani villages east of Artsakh earlier this week.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry, for its part, alleged 74 instances of Armenian gunfire registered over the past 24 hours.
Artsrun Hovannisian, the Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman, described the situation on the frontlines as “very tense.” “But you can’t compare it to the incidents of July-August,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), referring to last year’s upsurge in deadly fighting in the Karabakh conflict zone.
In a related development, the United States continued to express concern over the renewed escalation of tensions. “The benefits of a negotiated settlement far outweigh the costs of war,” James Warlick, Washington’s chief Karabakh negotiator, wrote on his Twitter page. “[Karabakh peace] can bring greater prosperity to the region.”