Washington has expressed concern about the downing by Azerbaijani forces of a military helicopter from the self-proclaimed “self-defense forces” of Nagorno-Karabakh — a breakaway region of Azerbaijan that is controlled by ethnic Armenians.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki says the incident is “yet another reminder” of the need to reduce tensions and respect a cease-fire in the region.
Psaki told reporters in Washington on November 12 that there could be “no military solution to the conflict.”
The Minsk Group of mediators from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) — which is co-chaired by France, Russia, and the United States — said the incident shows the “urgency to intensify efforts to find a lasting settlement” to the decades-old conflict.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry says Azerbaijani troops shot the helicopter down on November 12 as it “attempted to open fire” on them.
The ministry said: “According to preliminary information, the three servicemen of Armenian military forces on board were killed.”
Later, Baku announced it was decorating soldier Ilkin Muradov — who was credited with shooting down the helicopter.
David Babaian, a spokesman for the Nagorno-Karabakh forces, said the helicopter was on a training mission and denied it was involved in any combat operations.
Armenia’s Defense Ministry spokesman Artsrun Hovannisyan called the incident an “unprecedented provocation that leads to an escalation in the situation.”
Hovannisyan called Azerbaijani claims the helicopter attacked Azerbaijani troops “absurd.”
He also said: “The consequences for the Azerbaijani side will be very painful, and all responsibility will rest with the Azeri political leadership.”
It was the first time a military aircraft has been shot down in the Nagorno-Karabakh region in at least 20 years.
In Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said “it is essential that all sides show restraint and avoid any actions or statements which could escalate the situation.”
Mogherini also called for an inquiry into the incident.
Azerbaijan and Armenia have been locked in a dispute for years over Nagorno-Karabakh.