BAKU/YEREVAN (Reuters) – Armenia and Azerbaijan traded accusations yesterday after three soldiers were killed on a ceasefire line near the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region before a visit to the Caucasus by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
The two Azeri soldiers and one Armenian soldier were killed late on Wednesday, raising tensions ahead of Sarkozy’s arrival on a trip intended to promote peace.
The Azeri Defence Ministry accused Armenian forces of violating the ceasefire and shooting dead the two Azeri soldiers, ministry spokesman Teimur Abdullayev said.
Armenia blamed Azerbaijan for the tension, saying one of its soldiers was killed and two more were wounded by Azeri snipers.
“Azerbaijan … puts the fragile stability of the region under threat,” Armenian Defence Ministry spokesman David Karapetyan said.
Armenian-backed forces wrested Nagorno-Karabakh, a mainly Armenian-populated enclave inside Azerbaijan, from Azeri control after the Soviet Union collapsed.
A ceasefire was reached in 1994 after 30,000 people had been killed and about 1 million had been driven from their homes.
Sarkozy is expected to discuss Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan in Yerevan on Thursday and with Azeri President Ilham Aliyev in Baku today, before a nearly three-hour stopover in Georgia.
France has a leading role in the Minsk Group of countries from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) which is trying to resolve the conflict.