Wed, 12 Aug 2020

Seven Azerbaijani servicemen, including an army general, and four Armenian soldiers were reported killed on July 14 in the third day of border clashes involving heavy artillery amid international calls for an immediate de-escalation.

The two neighbors in the South Caucasus region that fought a war in 1988-1994 over the Nagorno-Karabakh region have blamed each other for starting the latest flare-up along their volatile border.

Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry said on July 14 that Major General Polad Hasimov and Colonel Ilqar Mirzayev were among those killed on the Azerbaijani side in the fresh fighting.

Armenia's Defense Ministry also said four of its servicemen, including a major and a captain, had been killed in the July 14 skirmishes.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anna Naghdalian said the city of Berd had been shelled near the border but Armenian forces had 'destroyed the Azeri bases' that fired on it.

Overall, at least 16 people have been reported killed from both sides since Armenian and Azerbaijani troops exchanged fire in the northern section of their border on July 12.

'Armenia's political and military leadership will bear the entire responsibility for the provocation,' Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev said on July 13.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian accused Azerbaijan of 'provocations' that would 'not go unanswered.'

The two neighbors have been locked in a conflict over Azerbaijan's breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh for years.

But the latest clashes have been far from Nagorno-Karabakh and directly between the two nations, which occurs rarely.

The European Union, United States, and Russia urged restraint in a series of statements on July 13.

Calls For Calm

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held phone conversations with his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts, urging de-escalation between the two countries with which it has close relations.

Russia's Foreign Ministry expressed 'serious concerns' over the clashes, which it said 'endanger the region's stability,' urging the countries to 'show restraint.'

The U.S. State Department urged both sides to adhere to a cease-fire and resume negotiations in a bid to achieve a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

In a statement, the EU urged both sides to "stop the armed confrontation, refrain from action and rhetoric that provoke tension, and undertake immediate measures to prevent further escalation."

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is 'deeply concerned' and 'urges an immediate end to the fighting and calls on all involved to take immediate steps to deescalate the situation and refrain from provocative rhetoric,' according to his spokesman, Stephane Dujarric.

The clashes came days after Azerbaijani President Aliyev raised the possibility of a new war with Armenia and denounced stalled peace talks.

On July 7, Aliyev threatened to withdraw from negotiations 'if they yield no results.' He did not provide further details.

Mainly ethnic Armenian-populated Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence from Azerbaijan amid a 1988-94 war that claimed an estimated 30,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

Since 1994, it has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces that Azerbaijan says include troops supplied by Armenia. The region's claim to independence has not been recognized by any country.

Negotiations involving the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), co-chaired by Russia, the United States, and France, helped forge a cease-fire in the region, which is not always honored, but have failed to produce a lasting settlement of the conflict.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Azerbaijani and Armenian Services, AFP, AP, Reuters, TASS, and dpa

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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