Azerbaijan started on Sunday to install a checkpoint on the border with Armenia at the entrance of the Lachin road which connects the Karabakh (Garabagh) region of Azerbaijan with Armenia.
According to the Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan, the border checkpoint's installation came as part of the efforts to prevent the continued systematic and large-scale misuse of the road by Armenia.
"Over the past two and half years since the signing of the Trilateral Statement the Azerbaijani side has consistently called attention to large-scale abuse of the Lachin road by Armenia. This includes the rotation of personnel of Armenian armed forces that continue to be illegally stationed in the territory of Azerbaijan, the transfer of weapons and ammunition, entrance of terrorists, as well as illicit trafficking of natural resources and cultural property," the ministry said in a statement on Sunday.
The ministry stated that over 2,700 anti-personnel landmines produced by Armenia in 2021 and detected in the Lachin and Kalbajar districts of Azerbaijan since August 2022 were transported to the Karabakh region through the Lachin road in a blatant violation of the Trilateral Statement. The landmine blew up a truck of the Azerbaijani army on Saturday, injuring 3 servicemen. A total of 294 Azerbaijanis were either killed or wounded in landmine blasts since the end of the 2020 war, according to the ministry.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, the surveillance drones of the Azerbaijan Armed Forces recorded the two military-purpose container houses and a convoy of military vehicles from Armenia crossing the border of Azerbaijan on the Lachin road. Later, at the beginning of the Lachin-Khankendi road, the placement of military-purpose container houses and the construction of military infrastructure by Armenia were observed at the point closest to the territory of Azerbaijan.
"In light of these threats and provocations, the establishment of border control mechanism at the starting point of the Lachin road will serve to transparency over the movement along the road, the rule of law, and thus, ensure the security and safety of the movement," the Foreign Ministry said.
"In line with obligations of the Trilateral Statement, in the framework of this measure of security guarantee by the Republic of Azerbaijan for the movement of citizens, vehicles and cargo through the Lachin road, proper conditions will be ensured for the transparent and regulated passage of Armenian residents living in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan from this checkpoint to Armenia and Azerbaijan in both directions. The said control mechanism shall be implemented in interaction with the Russian peacekeeping force," the Foreign Ministry added.
The Foreign Ministry of Armenia labeled the installation of the checkpoint as a "violation" of the 2020 Trilateral Statement and called on Russia to "ultimately implement the statement."
In response, the Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan stated that the legitimate decision to establish a checkpoint on the sovereign territory of Azerbaijan is in line with all the principles and norms of international law.
In the meantime, on Sunday, the Defense Ministry of Azerbaijan reported fire by the Armenian military on the Azerbaijani positions in Lachin. Furthermore, Armenians set fire to the Azerbaijan and Türkiye flags at the central square of the capital Yerevan during the traditional torch march to commemorate the so-called "genocide" of Armenians.
Azerbaijan has been insisting on installing a checkpoint on the border with Armenia amidst the illegal extraction of natural resources in the Karabakh region and arms transfers from Armenia to the region. During the plenary discussions on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference in February, President Ilham Aliyev proposed installing checkpoints on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border to facilitate the border delimitation process. However, the proposal was rejected by Armenia.
In early March, the Defense Ministry of Azerbaijan reported illegal military shipment from Armenia to the Karabakh region on dirt roads bypassing the Lachin road. The illicit activities of the Armenian side resulted in deadly gunfire on the Khalfali-Turshsu unpaved road on March 5 killing people on both sides.
On March 25, the Azerbaijan Armed Forces took local control measures to suppress the illegal movement of military personnel and arms via the dirt roads bypassing the Lachin highway. The Azerbaijani army took control of the unpaved mountain roads in the temporary monitoring zone of the Russian peacekeepers to curtail illegal transfers from Armenia to the Karabakh region.
However, the Defense Ministry of Azerbaijan reported on Sunday that two Armenian KamAZ trucks, 1 auto crane KamAZ, 1 UAZ-3151, and 1 UAZ-Patriot passenger vehicle entered the territory of Azerbaijan through the Lachin road, which led Azerbaijan to finally install the border checkpoint.