Three Armenian soldiers killed in clashes with Azerbaijani troops

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The Armenian Defense Ministry said on Wednesday that three of its troops were killed and two others injured in clashes with Azerbaijani troops on the border between the two ex-Soviet countries, who have been locked in a decades-long tug-of-war over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Azerbaijan’s defense ministry said on Wednesday that two of its military personnel were injured.

Both countries accuse each other of starting the clashes. Azerbaijan said Armenian troops opened fire on their positions on the Kalbajar section of the border. The Armenian army said its personnel were attacked by Azerbaijani forces.

The Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement saying that “the Azerbaijani side has deliberately initiated escalation”, and the Foreign Ministry in Azerbaijan said in turn that “the responsibility for aggravating the situation by committing an new provocation on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border entirely at the military-political leadership of Armenia.”

Tensions at the border have been simmering since May, when Armenia protested what it described as the incursion of Azerbaijani troops into its territory. Azerbaijan has insisted that its soldiers be deployed in what it considers its territory in areas where the border has yet to be demarcated.

In the wake of Wednesday’s clashes, Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry urged Armenia to “stop the military provocations and begin negotiations on the demarcation of the two state borders.”

The Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs pledged to “use all its military-political instruments in accordance with international law” in response to “Azerbaijan’s use of force against the territorial integrity of Armenia”.

Last fall, more than 6,000 people were killed in the six-week fighting for Nagorno-Karabakh, which is in Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces supported by Armenia since a separatist war ended there in 1994.

Hostilities ended in November with a Russian-brokered peace deal that allowed Azerbaijan to regain control of large parts of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas, which Armenian-backed separatists had controlled for more than 25 years.

(AP)