Armenia Asks Putin for Military Aid in Azerbaijan Border Dispute
(Bloomberg) -- Armenia’s acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said he’s asked Russian President Vladimir Putin for military assistance to end a deepening border dispute with Azerbaijan, raising fears of a renewed conflict.
“I appealed to President Putin for assistance to Armenia including military,” after Azerbaijan failed to withdraw an estimated 250 troops from the southern Armenian province of Syunik, Pashinyan told lawnakers in the capital, Yerevan, on Friday. Negotiations with Azerbaijani officials to try to end the standoff would also continue on Saturday, he said.
Azerbaijan denied invading Armenia. Its troops are engaged in a “difficult technical process accompanied by disputes” to demarcate their shared border following last year’s 44-day war, the Foreign Ministry in Baku said in an email.
There was no immediate comment from the Kremlin. Pashinyan’s request for help under a 1997 mutual-defense pact with Russia marks a sharp escalation in the most serious crisis between Armenia and Azerbaijan since the war that killed thousands until Putin brokered a cease-fire in November. The U.S. has expressed concern over the dispute, while French President Emmanuel Macron demanded Azerbaijan “withdraw immediately” from Armenian territory after a phone talk with Pashinyan on Thursday.
Putin emphasized the importance of maintaining the cease-fire in a phone call with Pashinyan late Thursday and the Armenian leader didn’t ask for assistance, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters earlier Friday.
With backing from Turkey’s military, Azerbaijan took control of part of the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh and reclaimed seven surrounding districts occupied by Armenia since 1993 in the war. The terms of the truce include opening shared borders that in many instances haven’t been marked out since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Some 2,000 Russian peacekeepers are deployed in Nagorno-Karabakh as part of the agreement brokered by Putin.
The U.S. is “closely following” developments on the Armenian-Azerbaijan border and urges restraint, State Department Spokesman Ned Price said on Twitter Thursday.
The U.S., Russia and France form the Minsk Group of mediators that tried and failed for decades to resolve the dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, whose Armenian population declared independence amid the Soviet collapse. The region remained internationally-recognized as part of Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan is “committed to easing of tensions” and has sent border commanders to the area, the Foreign Ministry said earlier in Baku, calling Armenia’s actions provocative.
The situation “looks worrying,” Thomas de Waal, a London-based senior fellow at Carnegie Europe, wrote on Twitter. It’s “closer to new violence than to peace agreement.”
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