Officials in Armenia confirmed the advancement of Azeri forces into Armenia’s region of Syunik on Wednesday.
In a late night session with members of the Security Council, acting PM Nikol Pashinyan said Azerbaijan’s Armed Forces crossed 3.5 kilometers into the Republic of Armenia early Wednesday morning and tried to enclose Lake Sev.
“These actions are intolerable for the Republic of Armenia, because this is an encroachment on the sovereign territory of the Republic, and of course it is a separate topic for discussion how and why such an operation was possible, but it is necessary to note that this is a diversionary tactic,” said Pashinyan.
In the morning, local officials from Syunik reported that Azerbaijani troops had advanced toward residential communities. Deputy mayor of Goris Irina Yolyan wrote on her Facebook that hundreds of Azeri soldiers had approached the village of Verishen, located about five kilometers north of the town of Goris, and encircled Lake Sev. According to Yolyan, Azerbaijan claims control over 30-percent of the lake.
The Armenian Defense Ministry (MoD) later confirmed that Azerbaijani forces “tried to carry out some works at one of the border sections of Syunik under the pretext of ‘border demarcations’” and retreated following measures taken by Armenian army units. “Right now negotiations are underway to resolve the situation,” the MoD wrote in a statement.
Both the PM and the MoD denied reports that gunshots were fired along the border. No casualties were reported.
“Our priority objective is to resolve this issue through negotiations and by diplomatic means,” Pashinyan said. “But this is one of the options.”
Later in the day, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu held a phone call with his Armenian counterpart Vagharshak Arutyunyan to discuss the “situation in areas where the Russian peacekeeping contingent is on a mission in Nagorno-Karabakh, and also other issues of mutual interest.”
Acting Foreign Minister Ara Ayvazyan also spoke with Russia’s Sergei Lavrov about the incident on the state border of Armenia and emphasized the “inadmissibility of such provocations from the Azerbaijani side.”
Human Rights Defender of Armenia Arman Tatoyan raised the urgent need for a security zone in his statement on Wednesday. Tatoyan said his office received a number of complaints from residents in Goris, Sisian and Tegh who say they witnessed Azeri soldiers in the vicinity. According to Tatoyan’s office, a shepherd from Verishen in Goris says Azeri military threatened him by showing their weapons. “These actions of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces grossly violate the rights of Armenia’s border residents, with the aim of intimidating them,” expressed Tatoyan on Facebook. “The presence of the Azerbaijani military servicemen deprives Armenian citizens of the opportunity to raise livestock and use pastures, the only source of income for their families, and poses a real threat to the access of irrigation and drinking water to the communities, their lives and safety.”
In response to the Azeris’ advancements on Wednesday, Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Supreme Body of Armenia representative Ishkhan Saghatelyan said that enemy forces are trying to take advantage of Pashinyan’s last days in office by making more military advancements.
While Pashinyan, for his part, is urging calm, he did note on Wednesday that the situation is “near critical, if not critical.”