RFE/RL – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (Autor)
YEREVAN -- An Armenian soldier has been taken into the custody of Azerbaijani forces under disputed circumstances in an area where both the rival Transcaucasus states maintain heavy troop presences.
The Armenian Defense Ministry said the junior officer, Gurgen Alaverdian, had lost his way due to "extremely unfavorable weather conditions" as he was preparing to inspect an Armenian front-line position late on August 22.
The ministry did not say whether Alaverdian was near the Armenian-Azerbaijani border or the "line of contact" around Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan's breakaway region populated mostly by ethnic Armenians.
The Azerbaijani military disputed the Armenian account, saying its troops deployed in the Goranboy district north of Nagorno-Karabakh captured Alaverdian while fighting back an Armenian commando attack early on August 23.
Armenia and Azerbaijan conduct occasional exchanges of individuals in their respective custodies but long-running diplomatic talks have been largely stalled for over a year.
Days of deadly fighting that included artillery fire along a remote northern section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border in mid-July alarmed the international community and stoked deep national resentments in both countries.
It was the most serious bloodshed in at least four years in a history of incidents since a 1994 cease-fire ended major fighting that killed around 30,000 people but failed to resolve the dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh's fate.
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