Azerbaijan has admitted shooting down an Armenian military helicopter, as skirmishing intensified over the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The Azerbaijani Defence Ministry said on November 12 that the country's armed forces had shot down an Armenian army Mi-24 helicopter as it was heading to attack Azerbaijani army positions.
Azerbaijan's Trend news agency said Armenian air forces had been holding drills with "provocative flights" along the line of contact for the past three days. "Today at 1345 a Mi-24 helicopter of the Armenian armed forces attacked Azerbaijani positions during a flight mission 1,700 metres to the northeast of the village of Kengerli in Agdam District," Trend said. "As a result of fire from Azerbaijani positions, the enemy helicopter was shot down."
The helicopter's debris fell down 500 metres away from the line of contact, the Azerbaijani news agency said.
Armenian ARKA news agency said the helicopter belonged to the "air forces of the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh" and it was carrying out a "training flight". It added that Azerbaijani armed forces "were continuing to heavily shell the place of the incident".
Timothy Ash, analyst at Standard Bank, thinks this is not the start of a prolonged conflict but is similar to the upsurge in skirmishes several months ago. "This is likely linked to regional security issues - particularly those in Ukraine. Russia is again trying to send a message that it is key to regional security - it can be a peacemaker in the region," Ash wrote in a note.
Ash added that the mood in Azerbaijan was against an open conflict with Armenia because any conflict would drag Russia into it and would undermine Azerbaijan's remarkable economic transformation over the past decade. "A common view we heard in Baku was why sacrifice this at this stage, when over time Armenia's own weak economic performance would force it to negotiate with Azerbaijan over NK?" Ash said about the mood on the groun in the Azerbaijani capital.
Azerbaijan and Armenia dispute Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent territories Armenia controls following a war between the two countries between 1988 and 1994. A part of Agdam District where the helicopter was shot down is controlled by Armenia.
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