YEREVAN—Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said Friday he asked Russian President Vladimir Putin for military support after accusing Azerbaijani troops of crossing the country’s southern border and trying to claim territory.
The United States urged an immediate pullback by Azerbaijan amid mounting international concern after last year’s war between the arch foes over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Speaking at an extraordinary session of Armenia’s parliament on Friday evening, Pashinyan said he had asked Putin “for the Russian Federation’s assistance, including military assistance.”
He also said that French President Emmanuel Macron “is considering the possibility of putting the issue on the agenda of the UN Security Council.”
“France is ready to provide military assistance, to support international efforts aimed at resolving the issue,” Pashinyan told lawmakers.
Armenia on Thursday accused Azerbaijan’s military of crossing the southern border in an “infiltration” to “lay siege” to a lake that is shared by the two countries. Azerbaijan rejected the claims.
Last year Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a war over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Pashinyan earlier also made a formal request for the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, a Moscow-led security bloc, to hold consultations on supporting member Armenia.
Under the treaty, members of the bloc, which also includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, consider aggression against one member as aggression against them all.
The six-week conflict claimed some 6,000 lives and ended after Armenia ceded swathes of territory it had controlled for decades.
US urges pullback
The United States, which maintains cordial relations with both rivals, said it understood Azerbaijan was pulling back and asked it to act without delay.
“Military movements in disputed territories are irresponsible and they are also unnecessarily provocative,” said a State Department spokeswoman, Jalina Porter.
“We expect Azerbaijan to pull back all forces immediately and cease further provocation,” she told reporters.
Pashinyan informed Putin of his decision to turn to the CSTO during a phone call late Thursday, his office said.
“The Russian side reaffirmed its readiness to continue exerting active mediation efforts with a view to ensuring stability in the region,” it said.
The two “agreed that the situation should be settled by getting Azerbaijani troops back to their starting positions.”
The Kremlin said Putin was calling on both countries to respect peace agreements, adding that Russia would continue “active mediating efforts”.
“The Armenian side expressed extreme concern over the situation at the border,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “President Putin shared this concern.”
‘Ready to protect territory’
Earlier Friday Armenian deputy prime minister Tigran Avinyan said Armenian and Azerbaijani officials were in talks to defuse the latest crisis but there have been no results so far.
He said Armenia wanted to settle the issue peacefully but added that “we must be ready to protect our sovereign territory.”
Azerbaijan has called Pashinyan’s claims provocative, saying its “border troops are taking positions that belong to Azerbaijan, in the Lachin and Kalbajar districts.”
Armenia, which had controlled Lachin and Kalbajar since the 1990s, handed the districts back to Azerbaijan last year under a Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement that ended the fighting.
On Friday, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Ceyhun Bayramov discussed the situation with the top US diplomat for Europe and Eurasia, Philip Reeker.
“It was noted that such issues should be solved through negotiations,” Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
Bayramov said that senior representatives of the country’s border guard service had been dispatched to the disputed area for talks, the statement said.
France’s Macron has expressed his country’s solidarity with Armenia and said Azerbaijan’s troops “must withdraw immediately.”
Ethnic Armenian separatists declared independence for Nagorno-Karabakh and seized control of the mountainous enclave and several surrounding regions in a war in the 1990s that left tens of thousands dead and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes.
After last year’s conflict they retained control of most of Karabakh itself, with Russian peacekeepers deployed between the two sides.