By AVET DEMOURIAN, Associated Press
YREVAN, Armenia (AP) – Armenia has reached an agreement with Azerbaijan to establish a direct line between their defense chiefs after last week’s deadly clashes at their border, the Armenian prime minister said on Tuesday.
Nikol Pashinyan told an online press conference that contacts between Armenian and Azerbaijani officials should become more frequent to “help stabilize the situation, find solutions and try to avoid crises.”
Pashinyan said six Armenian soldiers were killed and 32 others taken prisoner by Azerbaijanis during the November 16 clashes, the worst since hostilities in 2020. Azerbaijan said seven of its soldiers died.
Armenia and Azerbaijan are locked in a decades-old dispute over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, an area which is in Azerbaijan but which had been under the control of Armenian-backed ethnic Armenian forces since the beginning of the conflict. end of the separatist war in 1994.
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The Azerbaijani army routed Armenian forces during 44 days of fierce fighting in the fall of 2020, which ended in a Russian-brokered peace deal that saw Azerbaijan take control of a important part of Nagorno-Karabakh and recover all areas controlled by Armenian forces. outside the separatist region.
Russia has deployed nearly 2,000 peacekeepers for at least five years to monitor the peace agreement.
The peace deal was celebrated as a triumph in Azerbaijan, but was seen as a betrayal by the opposition in Armenia. Pashinyan defended it as the only way to prevent Armenian forces from losing control of the entire Nagorno-Karabakh region.
The 2020 peace deal provided for a transport corridor through Armenia that would connect Azerbaijan to its enclave in the Nakhichevan region – a plan the Armenian opposition resented, which also fears Armenian interests could be compromised by the planned demarcation of the border.
About 2,000 opposition supporters gathered in central Yerevan on Tuesday, urging Pashinyan to make the demarcation agreement public before signing it and rejecting plans for the transport corridor.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will host Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev for talks in Sochi in southern Russia on Friday.
Pashinyan and Aliyev are also expected to meet in Brussels for the EU-sponsored talks on December 15.
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