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Armenians, Azerbaijanis Trade Accusations Over Karabakh Fighting

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian visits a section of the Line of Contact in Nagorno-Karabakh in December.
Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian visits a section of the Line of Contact in Nagorno-Karabakh in December.

Azerbaijan and the separatists controlling the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region have traded accusations over armed clashes along the heavily militarized line of contact that caused casualties.

The separatist military said on February 25 that its troops repelled attacks by Azerbaijani armed forces in the southeastern and eastern sections of the front line.

The ethnic Armenian military leadership in Nagorno-Karabakh said its troops “timely spotted and repulsed” attacks by Azerbaijani forces and that several Azerbaijani soldiers were killed in the fighting, while the Armenian side suffered no casualties.

“There are several bodies [of Azerbaijani soldiers] in the neutral zone. The Armenian side suffered no dead or wounded,” Karabakh’s Ministry of Defense said in a statement.

Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry confirmed the overnight clashes, but insisted that they were triggered by the separatist forces.

It also admitted casualties, without specifying a number, and said the Karabakh forces had launched an unsuccessful offensive for the purpose of "improving their positions."

It said the ethnic Armenian forces had been rebuffed but continued to shell Azerbaijani positions with heavy artillery.

Meanwhile, the Karabakh military leadership quoted “reliable data” in reporting movements of Azerbaijani troops and materiel in the eastern direction of the line of contact.

The Armenian Defense Ministry issued a statement warning Azerbaijan's military and political leadership against further escalation of the situation in the conflict zone.

The Armenian military insisted it is “committed to the cease-fire regime.”

Armenia-backed separatists seized control of the mainly ethnic-Armenian Nagorno-Karabakh during a war in the early 1990s that killed some 30,000 people. Diplomatic efforts to settle the conflict have brought little progress.

Sporadic Armenian-Azerbaijani clashes have become particularly frequent in recent years. Four days of heavy fighting in April 2016 reportedly killed dozens on both sides.

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