Tensions escalated after Azerbaijan closed the land route from Armenia | conflict news

Azerbaijan has announced that it has set up a checkpoint on the only land route to the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Azerbaijan said it had set up a checkpoint on the only land route into the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, a move that was followed by allegations of gunfire at the border by Azerbaijani and Armenian forces.

Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but its 120,000 residents are mostly ethnic Armenians, and the region was separated from Baku in a war in the early 1990s.

Azerbaijan said on Sunday it had set up a checkpoint on the road to Karabakh, saying the move was necessary because of what it described as Armenia’s use of the road to transport weapons.

The foreign ministry said Azerbaijan had “taken appropriate measures to establish control at the starting point of the route”.

“Providing border security, as well as ensuring safe passage on the road, is the prerogative of the Government of Azerbaijan, and a prerequisite for national security, state sovereignty and the rule of law.”

Armenia said the checkpoint at the Hakkari Bridge in the Lachin Corridor was a flagrant violation of the 2020 ceasefire agreement that ended the 2020 war.

It called on Russia to implement the agreement, which stipulates that the Lachin Corridor, the only road through Azerbaijan connecting Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh, should be under the control of Russian peacekeepers.

“We call on the Russian Federation to finally implement the tripartite statement,” the Armenian foreign ministry said of the agreement, which was brokered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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The US government said it was “deeply concerned” by Azerbaijan’s establishment of a checkpoint on the only land route to the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, saying it undermined efforts to achieve peace in the region.

The US State Department also said there should be free and open movement of people and commerce on the Lachin Corridor, and urged the two sides to resume peace talks.

Pictures of the bridge posted by Azeri officials on social media showed that one side of the bridge was blocked off by vehicles and soldiers.

Armenia’s defense ministry said a soldier named Artyom Pogosyan was killed around 07:50 GMT when Azerbaijani forces opened fire on an Armenian position in Sotak, an Armenian village east of Lake Sevan. Azerbaijan denied killing the soldier.

Azerbaijan then claimed that Armenian soldiers fired on Azerbaijani units at around 11:10 GMT in the Lachin district, a claim denied by Armenia.

In 2020, Azerbaijan regained territory in and around the enclave after a second war ended in a Russian-brokered ceasefire upheld by Russian peacekeepers.

Since December 12, Azerbaijani civilians who identify themselves as environmental activists have been confronting Russian peacekeepers in the Lachin corridor.

Armenia says the protesters are supported by the government and are effectively blockading Karabakh. Azerbaijan denies blocking the road, saying some convoys and aid are allowed to pass.

In recent months, Armenia has repeatedly called on Moscow to do more to uphold peace and ensure unfettered access between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh through the Lachin Corridor.

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