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Weekend of clashes follows Pashinyan-Blinken-von der Leyen meeting

Caption: Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan (left), EU High Representative Josep Borell (centre left), EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (centre right), US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (right) in Brussels. Image via primeminister.am.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have exchanged accusations over border clashes over the weekend, as Armenian officials attended a trilateral meeting with the EU and US in  Brussels.

The clashes were first reported by Azerbaijan on Friday, who accused Armenia of digging trenches in front of the Azerbaijani military in the northern area of the border to ‘create basis for next provocations’. Later that day, Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defence reported that its military positions were attacked a total of 30 times over Friday. 

Armenia also reported clashes on the border on Friday, claiming that Azerbaijani fire damaged civilian infrastructure in the northern Tavush Province on Friday and in the southern Syunik Province on Saturday night. They also accused Azerbaijan of firing at military positions in the same two regions and Gegharkunik.

On Saturday, both sides accused each other of provoking the other into an escalation, while the EU Monitoring Mission on Armenia’s border stated that the situation was ‘stable and calm’ in Sotk, Verin Shorzha, Aravus, and Movses — all regions that reportedly came under Azerbaijani fire.

Tensions on the border have been mounting since late March when Baku accused Armenia of building up its forces on their shared border, a claim that both Armenia and the EU Monitoring Mission denied. The accusations were followed by reports of clashes the next day.

‘Support for Armenia’s resilience’

The clashes took place as Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan met with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, EU High Representative Josep Borrell, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday in Brussels, in a meeting maligned and criticised by Azerbaijan as a Western show of bias towards Armenia.

Both Brussels and Washington have since issued reassurances that the meeting would largely be focused on Armenia’s economic resilience.

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This was echoed once more in a joint statement following the conclusion of the meeting, which stated that it aimed at reaffirming support for ‘Armenia’s sovereignty, democracy, territorial integrity, and socio-economic resilience’.

Following the meeting, both Washington and Brussels pledged financial assistance to Yerevan to help it ‘mitigate risks, diversify its trade, and strengthen its economic and institutional resilience’; the US announced it would provide over $65 million in development aid while the EU pledged €270 million ($290 million) between 2024–2027.

Since the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War, and subsequent incursions by Azerbaijan into Armenia that went unanswered by Moscow, Yerevan has sought to move away from its reliance on Russia for its security and economic ties.

Russia was quick to denounce the meeting, with the Foreign Ministry accusing the West of seeking to turn Armenia ‘into an instrument for the implementation of its extremely dangerous plans’ in the region. They added that the West also sought to push Armenia to withdraw from the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation and the Eurasian Economic Union.

In a meeting with former Turkish foreign minister and MP Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Friday, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev also criticised the trilateral meeting in Brussels as posing ‘another source of danger for the South Caucasus’.

‘We understand this is against Azerbaijan and cooperation in the South Caucasus. Its objective is to create divisive lines and isolate our country’, said Aliyev during the meeting.