STEPANAKERT, NKR (A.W.)—Nineteen-year-old Nagorno-Karabagh Republic (NKR/Artsakh) serviceman Aramayis Voskanian became the first Armenian casualty of 2016 on Jan. 9, in the ongoing conflict on the Azerbaijan-NKR Line of Contact (LoC).
According to a statement released by the NKR Defense Ministry, Voskanian was fatally wounded on Saturday while serving the eastern direction of the LoC with Azerbaijan. According to two other statements released by the ministry, the Azerbaijani Army fired more than 4,000 shots from various guns of different calibers from Jan. 3-9, and 500 shots from Jan. 10-11.
Thirty-five Armenian soldiers and three civilians died in the NKR conflict in 2015. In early December 2015, in a span of two weeks, seven Armenian servicemen were killed by Azerbaijani fire, as Baku resorted to escalating the conflict by deploying and firing a tank on the LoC.
Speaking to the Armenian Weekly last month, Artak Beglaryan, spokesperson for NKR Prime Minister Arayik Harutyunyan, said Baku was motivated to escalate the conflict by both geopolitical developments in the region and the country’s domestic reality. Beglaryan also noted that certain events, such as the European Games and the parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan, had prompted Baku to refrain from resorting to violence. However, developments in Armenia and in the international arena—including Armenia’s constitutional referendum and the September meeting between Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian and the co-chairs of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)—had the opposite effect.
Armenia’s President Serge Sarkisian and Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev met in the Swiss city of Bern on Dec. 19, at a summit mediated by the OSCE Minsk Group.
In a press briefing following the summit, Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said the summit agenda was dictated by the escalation of the conflict, as a result of Azerbaijan’s provocations and violations of the ceasefire. “Azerbaijan cannot get rid of the delusion that it can translate the use of power, the escalation of the situation into a negotiation tool. In fact, it is their weakness. Baku wishes to compensate its insecurities in negotiations by such actions,” said Nalbandian.