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Fresh Fighting Puts Further Strain On Nagorno-Karabakh Truce Deal

Rescuers carry away the body of a victim at a blast site hit by a rocket in the Azerbaijani city of Ganca on October 11.

Fresh clashes have broken out between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region, with both sides accusing the other of violating a Russian-brokered cease-fire.

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry on October 12 accused the Armenian side of not complying with the humanitarian cease-fire agreement negotiated in Moscow, saying they "repeatedly tried to attack the positions of the Azerbaijan Army."

Azerbaijan was "now intensively shelling the southern front," according to Armenian Defense ministry spokeswoman Shushan Stepanian said.

Meanwhile, ethnic Armenian officials in Nagorno-Karabakh said on October 12 that 45 more servicemen had been killed in fighting with Azerbaijan, bringing its total military death toll to 525 since fighting broke out on September 27.

The humanitarian cease-fire, agreed upon on October 10, called for the return of the bodies of those killed in and around Nagorno-Karabakh since the latest fighting broke out on September 27 -- the biggest escalation in the conflict since a shaky 1994 cease-fire. Hundreds of soldiers and civilians have been killed since then.

On October 11, Azerbaijan said it had carried out air strikes against ethnic Armenian forces, inflicting heavy losses, following what it said was an Armenian rocket attack on a civilian apartment building in Ganca, Azerbaijan's second-largest city.

The Armenian side denied both Azerbaijani assertions.

Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian was in Moscow on October 12 for talks with the co-chairs of the Minsk Group -- France, Russia, and the United States -- which is trying to mediate the situation.

"As we can see, this agreement isn't being fully honored, and the hostilities are continuing," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in his opening remarks at a meeting with his Armenian counterpart.

A Truce In Tatters: Fighting Flares Over Nagorno-Karabakh
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WATCH: A Truce In Tatters: Fighting Flares Over Nagorno-Karabakh

"Hopefully, our contacts with you and with our Azerbaijani colleagues, including those from the defense ministries, will help achieve full implementation of the agreements reached in the trilateral format," he added.

According to the cease-fire agreement reached in Moscow, relaunched peace talks are to be mediated by the Minsk Group, which was set up in the 1990s under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to mediate the conflict.

The deal says the existing format of negotiations will remain in place and will not be changed over time.

Nagorno-Karabakh is recognized internationally as part of Azerbaijan. But it has been under the control of Yerevan-backed ethnic Armenian forces since a 1994 cease-fire brought an end to the separatist war that broke out as the Soviet Union collapsed.

Since then, Nagorno-Karabakh has been populated and governed by ethnic Armenians, leaving hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis from the region as internally displaced war refugees in Baku and other parts of Azerbaijan for more than a quarter-century.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, Interfax, Current Time, and RFE/RL's Azerbaijani, Armenian, and Russian services
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