Armenia's acting prime minister proposed stationing Russian border guards along the country's border with Azerbaijan as tensions between the two ex-Soviet nations continue to simmer Thursday.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan floated the idea a day after three Armenian troops were killed in cross-border hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which for decades have been locked in a conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh The two countries accused each other of starting Wednesday's fighting, which wounded soldiers on both sides.
Azerbaijan said Armenian forces opened fire at its positions on the Kalbajar section of the border, and the Armenian military said its personnel were attacked by Azerbaijani forces.
Pashinyan said Thursday that stationing Russian border guards along the border “would allow to carry out the demarcation and delimitation of the border without the risk of military clashes."
“We plan to discuss the issue with our Russian partners," the acting prime minister told a government meeting.
Tensions on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan have been simmering since May, when Armenia protested what it described as an incursion by Azerbaijani troops into its territory. Azerbaijan has insisted that its soldiers were deployed to what it considers its territory in areas where the border has yet to be demarcated.
The clash on Wednesday was the deadliest since the end of a 6-week war over Nagorno-Karabakh last fall. Russia brokered a November peace deal that ended the fighting that had killed more than 6,000 people. Nagorno-Karabakh lies within Azerbaijan but was under the control of ethnic Armenian separatists backed by Armenia since an earlier war there ended in 1994.
The Russia-brokered truce allowed Azerbaijan to reclaim control over large parts of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas. Moscow has also deployed nearly 2,000 peacekeepers to the region.
Commenting Thursday on Pashinyan's proposal, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stressed that Russia helped cease Wednesday's border hostilities, but he was tight-lipped about whether Moscow would agree to send border guards.
“Contacts with Yerevan continue. I have nothing else to add,” Peskov said during a conference call with reporters.
Associated Press writer Daria Litvinova contributed from Moscow.