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Armenia-Bound NATO Plane 'Barred From Azerbaijani Airspace'

Armenian soldier in exercises under NATO's Partnership for Peace program in June 2003

Armenian soldier in exercises under NATO's Partnership for Peace program in June 2003

YEREVAN -- An Armenian Defense Ministry official says Azerbaijan has refused to allow a German military-transport plane carrying Armenian soldiers from Afghanistan to fly over its territory on August 18, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

The high-ranking ministry source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told RFE/RL that Azerbaijan similarly refused last year to let NATO military aircraft bound for Afghanistan enter its airspace from Armenia.

The 45 Armenian servicemen were due to arrive in Yerevan on August 18 after completing a six-month tour of duty in the northern Afghan city of Konduz. The area is part of the German-led Northern Command of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) for Afghanistan.

The German Defense Ministry did not immediately confirm or deny the alleged Azerbaijani overflight ban on the German plane.

"With these actions, Azerbaijan is probably trying to close the possibilities for using Armenian airspace and airports for shipments to Afghanistan," he said, accusing Baku of blocking a key ISAF supply line.

The source added that Yerevan is considering retaliatory measures such as a closure of Armenian airspace to Afghanistan-bound NATO planes making stopovers in Baku.

The departing Armenian soldiers eventually flew to Cologne, Germany, from where they will be flown back to Armenia.

It was not clear whether a second rotation of Armenian troops, which underwent training at a German military base recently, has already been deployed in Konduz.