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Azerbaijani, Armenian Forces Exchange Fire Along Tense Border Section


An Armenian soldier at an army post on the border with Azerbaijan. (file photo)
An Armenian soldier at an army post on the border with Azerbaijan. (file photo)

Azerbaijani and Armenian forces exchanged fire for several hours along a section of their border as tensions continue to simmer between the two countries after last year's war over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The defense ministries of both countries accused the other side of provoking the flare-up on the evening of July 19 along Armenia’s Yeraskh section of the border with Azerbaijan's Naxcivan exclave, which is sandwiched between Armenia and Iran.

Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry claimed that a lieutenant was wounded in his leg after Armenian forces opened fire using weapons of various calibers at Azerbaijani positions in the Sadarak district of the Naxcivan region. It said Azerbaijani forces fired in retaliation.

Armenia’s Defense Ministry claimed Azerbaijani forces first fired on Armenian positions in the Yeraskh section, saying the “entire responsibility” for the skirmish fell on Azerbaijan. It did not report any casualties.

Both Yerevan and Baku said that the situation at the border was calm on the morning of July 20.

There were no initial reports of casualties on either side.

The skirmish comes five days after another shoot-out along the same section of the border left one Armenian soldier dead and at least one Azerbaijani soldier wounded.

Long-running tensions between the two South Caucasus nations escalated during last year's war over Nagorno-Karabakh, which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but had been controlled by ethnic Armenians since the early 1990s.

Some 6,000 people were killed in six weeks of fighting that ended in a Moscow-brokered cease-fire deal.

Under the cease-fire, a chunk of Nagorno-Karabakh and all seven districts around it were placed under Azerbaijani administration after almost 30 years of control by ethnic Armenian forces.

The agreement also resulted in the deployment of around 2,000 Russian peacekeepers, and provided for an exchange of prisoners.

Several prisoner exchanges have since taken place.

Also on July 20, Armenia's Defense Ministry said acting Defense Minister Vagharshak Harutiunian had tendered his resignation.

It did not provide an explanation for the move.

Harutiunian was appointed to the post in November after the truce took force.