Armenia Premier Touts Azeri Border-Mapping Pact Amid Tensions

Armenia’s acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said he’ll sign a new Russia-brokered agreement with Azerbaijan on a mechanism to mark out their shared border amid military tensions over disputed territory.

The accord will help avoid situations like the confrontation with Azerbaijani troops who’ve encroached onto land inside Armenia this month, Pashinyan told lawmakers late Thursday in the capital, Yerevan, after a copy of the document was leaked. Delineation of the state border between Armenia and Azerbaijan will be achieved “only through diplomatic and political means,” he said.

Tensions are running high over the border following the 44-day war that killed thousands on both sides late last year. Azerbaijan regained seven districts occupied by Armenia for decades and took control of part of the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh before Russia negotiated a truce in November. The terms of that deal include opening shared borders that in many instances haven’t been marked out since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

Pashinyan, who faces June 20 parliamentary elections, said more than 500 Azerbaijani troops have crossed into Armenia’s Syunik and Gegharkunik regions since May 12, and that there had been clashes including shooting between the two sides. He told lawmakers he’ll only sign the accord once they’ve withdrawn.

Azerbaijan denies its forces entered Armenian territory and says the troops are engaged in marking out the state border.

France, the U.S., and Iran have called for Armenia’s territorial integrity to be respected and for Azerbaijan to pull back its troops. Armenia has appealed to Russia for military assistance under a 1997 defense pact.

Pashinyan is facing criticism from opposition parties over the document, which states that a border commission will be formed by May 31 and start work next month. Edmon Marukyan, leader of the Bright Armenia party, said “once again a document has been drafted behind the Armenian people’s back,” following the cease-fire deal negotiated by Russian President Vladimir Putin that ended the war.

Armenian President Armen Sarkissian, who met Friday with Pashinyan to discuss the issue, and some members of the acting government have said they were unaware of the document. Opposition parties insist any agreement requires parliamentary ratification, which could only happen after the elections.

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