Fighting on Azerbaijan-Armenia Border Raises Pipeline Concerns

BAKU/YEREVAN (Reuters) — Several Azeri soldiers have been killed and Armenian soldiers and police wounded in border clashes, both countries said on Monday, in an area near several pipeline crossings. 

The two former Soviet republics have long been in conflict over Azerbaijan’s breakaway, mainly ethnic Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh, although the latest clashes occurred around the Tavush region in northeast Armenia, some 300 km (190 miles) from the mountainous enclave.

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has concerned the international community in part because of its threat to stability in a region that serves as a corridor for major pipelines taking oil and gas to world markets.  The latest clash in the Tavush area puts the fighting even closer to the pipelines, including the South Caucasus Pipeline (SCP).

SCP is part of the Southern Gas Corridor, which also includes the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) and the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP).  This combined network of pipelines is due to start carrying gas from Azerbaijan to Europe this year, upon completion of TAP.

The Azeri defense ministry said four of its soldiers had been killed and five wounded while Armenia’s ministry said three of its soldiers and two police officers had been wounded in the clashes.

The exchanges of fire began on Sunday and continued into Monday, with both sides accusing the other of ceasefire violations and shelling.

Azeri President Ilham Aliyev accused the Armenian leadership of a “provocation”. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said the leadership of Azerbaijan would be responsible for “the unpredictable consequences of the regional destabilization”. 

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a security watchdog that has tried to help find a solution to the conflict, urged the two countries to speak to each other to prevent any further escalation.


P&GJ staff contributed to this report.

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