Armenia confirms the capture which Azerbaijan Defense Ministry says occurred when the troops “attempted to cross the border and place mines” on supply routes leading to Azerbaijani positions.

Azerbaijan service members guard the area, which came under the control of Azerbaijan's troops following a military conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, on the border with Iran in Jabrayil, December 7, 2020.
Azerbaijan service members guard the area, which came under the control of Azerbaijan's troops following a military conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, on the border with Iran in Jabrayil, December 7, 2020. (Reuters)

Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry has taken prisoner six Armenian soldiers.

The Armenian troops were seized early on Thursday when they attempted to cross the border and place mines on supply routes leading to the Azerbaijani positions, the ministry said. The incident highlights recent exacerbation in tensions between the two ex-Soviet nations in the wake of fighting over the Nagorno-Karabakh region last year.

The Armenian authorities insisted that its soldiers were captured on Armenia's side of the border while conducting engineering works, and demanded their immediate release.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan told a government meeting that the soldiers were planting a minefield with warning signs on Armenian territory near the border.

READ MORE: Azerbaijan and Armenia swap prisoners after peace deal

The capture of the Armenian soldiers comes as the South Caucasus neighbours trade angry accusations over the demarcation of their border. 

More than 6,000 people were killed last fall in the six weeks of fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh, which lies within Azerbaijan but was under the occupation of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a separatist war there ended in 1994.

Armenia was able to occupy Nagorno-Karabakh and some other territories around it following the war.

Heavy fighting erupted in late September and marked the biggest escalation of a decades-old conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

A Russian-brokered peace agreement that took effect November 10 halted the violence and stipulated that Armenia hand over control to Azerbaijan of some areas it holds outside Nagorno-Karabakh’s borders. 

Azerbaijan also retained control over areas of Nagorno-Karabakh it took during the conflict, and both sides agreed to exchange prisoners, hostages and bodies of the victims of the fighting.

Before the recent conflict, about 20 percent of Azerbaijan's territory had been under illegal Armenian occupation for nearly three decades.

The hostilities ended with a Russia-brokered peace deal in November allowing Azerbaijan to reclaim control over large parts of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas, which Armenia-backed separatists controlled for more than 25 years.

READ MORE: Azerbaijan: Nearly 2,800 soldiers killed in Karabakh fighting

Source: AP