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Armenia/Azerbaijan: Intense Fighting Reported Over Weekend

Baku/Yerevan, 21 April 1997 (RFE/RL) - Armenia and Azerbaijan on Saturday were reported to have been involved in the most intense fighting in three years.

Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry said Armenian forces using anti-tank guns, grenade launchers and light weapons began firing on Azerbaijani territory Friday night from Nagorno-Karabakh. The Interfax news agency also quoted a military official in Baku as saying Armenian forces also attacked Azerbaijani positions from the Talysh region, along the northern part of the border. The Defense Ministry said Azerbaijanis suffered a number of dead and wounded and returned fire.

The Armenian Defense Ministry said Azerbaijani troops opened machine-gun fire on Armenian army positions in the Talysh region. It said several civilians were injured.

Presidents Levon Ter-Petrosian of Armenia and Geidar Aliyev of Azerbaijan held emergency telephone talks because of the clashes. A statement from Ter-Petrosian's press service said they agreed to send orders to military authorities in both camps to cease the hostilities and restore the ceasefire.

The two former Soviet republics are locked in a nine-year-old dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous enclave inside Azerbaijan, but populated mostly by ethnic Armenians. A truce in 1994 ended a war in which 15,000 people were killed. Peace talks have failed to resolve the dispute though. Armenian forces currently control most of the enclave and some land inside Azerbaijan.