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EU observers caught in crossfire on Armenia-Azerbaijan border

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A patrol of the European Union’s border monitoring mission in Armenia came under fire on Tuesday near the village of Verin Shorzha, close to the border with Azerbaijan. The incident occurred amid rising tensions between the two South Caucasus countries over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The EU mission in Armenia confirmed that one of its patrols was present at the shooting incident, but said no mission member was hurt. The mission has about 100 unarmed staff deployed under the EU’s Common Security and Defense Policy to observe the tense frontier.

Armenia’s defense ministry accused Azerbaijan’s forces of targeting the EU observers and their vehicle with small-arms fire. Azerbaijan’s defense ministry denied the allegation, calling it “disinformation” from Armenia. It also said it was “theoretically and practically impossible” for such a situation to occur, as the EU monitors share their car registration details and coordinate with both sides ahead of their patrols.

The incident came ahead of a United Nations Security Council meeting on Wednesday, where Armenia will appeal for the UN to intervene in a worsening humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh. The breakaway region is inside Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized borders but is home to tens of thousands of ethnic Armenians. Last year, a brief war between Armenia and Azerbaijan resulted in Azerbaijan regaining control of most of the territory, with the help of Turkey and Russian peacekeepers.

Armenia accuses Azerbaijan of blockading Nagorno-Karabakh for the past two months and preventing aid organizations from delivering supplies of food and fuel to those living there. Azerbaijan denies the accusation and says it is ready to cooperate with international humanitarian efforts.

The EU has called for a peaceful resolution of the conflict and urged both sides to respect the ceasefire agreement signed in November 2020. The EU has also pledged to provide 2.6 billion euros ($3 billion) to assist Armenia and Azerbaijan over the next decade to support post-conflict recovery and reconstruction.

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