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Foreign nationals injured as US investment comes under fire in Armenia

15 June 2023
The construction site of the Yeraskh steel plant. Photo: GTB Steel via Hetq.

Two Indian citizens employed at a steel plant under construction with US investment in Armenia have been injured after the site came under fire.

Armenia’s Defence Ministry accused Azerbaijan of inventing a ceasefire violation on Wednesday afternoon as a pretext to open fire on the plant.

The plant is located in Yeraskh, south of Yerevan and near the border with the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan. 

The injuries of the two wounded men are not life-threatening. 

US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller reacted on Twitter, expressing ‘concerns that two civilian employees of a US-affiliated company in Armenia sustained injuries from gunfire from the direction of Azerbaijan’.

The plant is being constructed by GTB Steel, which according to Hetq is a joint venture between Armenian citizen Grigor Ter-Ghazaryan and Indian-American investor Bobby Kang.

Armenia had also accused Azerbaijan of targetting the factory on Tuesday, reporting that a civilian car and a building had been damaged as a result. 

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In a statement, the Armenian Foreign Ministry accused Azerbaijan of ‘hindering Armenia’s economic development and foreign investments’.

Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry and Defence Ministry, however, denied the accusations. 

‘Regarding the allegation that Azerbaijan aims to prevent the attraction of investments in Armenia by creating provocations, let us note that Armenia pursued a policy of self-isolation by making territorial claims against neighbouring countries and keeping the territories of Azerbaijan under occupation for nearly 30 years, thereby all excluded from international projects’, the Foreign Ministry said.

Members of the European Union Monitoring Mission in Armenia also visited the area following the news, with the EU special representative to the South Caucasus, Toivo Klaar, posting a mild statement saying that the ‘shooting in all areas needs to stop’. 

Several foreign diplomats in Armenia also visited the area on Thursday at the initiative of the Armenian Foreign Ministry.

Deputy Armenian Foreign Minister Vahan Kostanyan posted a photo online with EU monitors at the site.

Baku has opposed the construction of the metallurgical plant. Earlier in June, Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Environment accused Armenia of violating international norms with the factory, which would damage Azerbaijan’s environment. 

The tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan and in Nagorno-Karabakh have continued to ratchet in recent weeks, with both sides accusing each other of ceasefire violations almost daily. 

On Thursday morning, Azerbaijan accused Armenia of firing towards Azerbaijani border guards at the checkpoint on the Lachin corridor, injuring one. 

A criminal case was opened at the General Prosecutor’s Office in connection with the incident.

The Armenian National Security Service said that Azerbaijani soldiers had attempted to advance into Armenian territory and erect an Azerbaijani flag, which was ‘prevented’ as a result of the ‘measures’ taken by the Armenian side. 

Shortly after, the authorities in Stepanakert stated that Azerbaijan had halted all traffic to and from Nagorno-Karabakh, including humanitarian cargo brought in by the Russian peacekeepers and the Red Cross.

Later on Thursday afternoon, Armenia accused Azerbaijan of using mortars in the same area, injuring a border guard. Baku accused Yerevan of breaking the ceasefire.

Additional reporting by Ismi Aghayev.

 For ease of reading, we choose not to use qualifiers such as ‘de facto’, ‘unrecognised’, or ‘partially recognised’ when discussing institutions or political positions within Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia. This does not imply a position on their status.