Azerbaijan Arrests Armenian Soldiers amid Rising Border Tensions
Borders between Armenia and Azerbaijan have not yet been officially agreed upon. Image: Azerbaijan State Border Service
Early Thursday morning, the Azerbaijan Defence Ministry reported that it had arrested six Armenian service members in Azerbaijan's Kalbajar region at 3:00 am.
Lieutenant Colonel Anar Eyvazov, as quoted on the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Azerbaijan Facebook page: "Armenian soldiers were disarmed in the territory of Yukhari Ayrim village of Kalbajar. At the same time, the enemy had assembled its forces including tank formations in the frontline."
The Azerbaijan Defence Ministry further accused Armenia of trying to plant land mines on supply routes Azerbaijan's border patrol uses to transport amenities to its personnel.
"Their purpose was to mine the supply routes in the rear of our forces serving on the border," said Colonel Anar Eyvazov. "Armenia is passing off the sabotage unit… as engineers and sappers. What kind of engineering work can Armenian military engineers do in the territory of Azerbaijan? Anyone with just a little knowledge of military affairs understands that engineering work is not done by small groups."
The arrest has been confirmed by the Armenian Defence Ministry, which calls it an "abduction" and reported that its servicemen were doing "engineering work" near the Gegharkunik region in the border area. Armenia released a press statement saying Azerbaijan's accusation that the men "carrying out engineering works" were in "the territory of Azerbaijan, does not correspond to reality."
Russian news agencies quoted Armenia's acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan as calling Russia, the international community and Azerbaijan to work on resolving the border issues to ease tension.
"Let's agree that the military units from both sides rapidly move away from the border and return to their permanent bases, and station international observers from Russia or other countries in the OSCE Minsk Group."
Immediately following the meeting of Armenia’s Security Council, Armenia's Minister of Foreign Affairs resigned from his position. An article on the Armenian news website “Hraparak” suggested that Ayvazian was "indignant at Nikol Pashinyan's behavior," that is, his attempts to ease tension at the border.
Last week, Azerbaijan's President, Ilham Aliyev publicly expressed readiness for peace talks with Armenia, writing on his twitter account that "Azerbaijan is prepared to work with Armenia..."
A 44-day war between the two countries started September 27, 2020, and ended with an agreement the night of November 9, 2020, in which Armenia agreed to return all occupied lands to Azerbaijan, though Russian peacekeepers are stationed in areas heavily populated with ethnic Armenians. The recent border tensions are a result of Azerbaijan moving personnel back into its territory.