Azerbaijani troops dig trenches outside Tegh village.

Azeri Troops Hold on to ‘Newly Occupied Armenian Territory’

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By Susan Badalian

YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — Azerbaijani troops have not withdrawn from community lands of an Armenian border village occupied by them last week, local residents insisted on Monday, April 3, denying the Armenian government’s implicit claims to the contrary.

Azerbaijani army units redeployed by the morning of Thursday, March 30, to more parts of the Lachin district sandwiched between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, completing a change in the route of the Lachin corridor which began last August. Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) said hours later that they advanced up to 300 meters into Armenian territory at five local sections of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border adjacent to the village of Tegh.

Local government officials and farmers said Tegh lost a large part of its agricultural land and pastures. Some of them said that the Azerbaijani military made bigger territorial gains than is admitted by official Yerevan.

The Azerbaijani advance also caused an uproar in Yerevan, with Armenian opposition leaders blaming Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan for the loss of yet another part of Armenia’s internationally recognized territory.

In another statement released on Saturday, the NSS claimed that the situation in that border area “improved significantly” as a result of negotiations held by Armenian and Azerbaijani officials. It did not elaborate.

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Tegh residents said afterwards, however, that the Azerbaijani troops remained stationed in the newly occupied positions just outside the village.

“They keep digging in … and haven’t retreated a single inch,” said Masis Zeynalian, a member of the local council who no longer has access to his wheat field.

“They’re staying put and continuing fortification works,” said another Tegh councilor, Argam Hovsepian. “Is this what they [the NSS] call an improvement?”

Armenia’s Deputy Defense Minister Arman Sargsyan refused to comment on that “improvement” when he was approached by journalists on Monday.

“The Defense Ministry has a press service that periodically and promptly reacts to any issue,” Sargsian said vaguely.

The ministry has made no statements on the situation around Tegh so far. Speaking right after the Azerbaijani advance on Thursday, Pashinyan said that from now on the area will be patrolled and protected by border guards subordinate to the NSS, rather than the Armenian army.

Opposition leaders also blamed Pashinyan’s government for much bigger territorial losses suffered by Armenia during border clashes with Azerbaijan in May 2021 and September 2022. They regularly charge that it cannot defend the country and rebuild its armed forces after mishandling the disastrous 2020 war in Karabakh. Pashinyan and his political allies deny this.

 

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