Clashes Between Armenia And Azerbaijan Threatens A New War

REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter
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Officials in both Armenia and Azerbaijan have confirmed their military forces engaged in fighting with one another, killing around 30 people.

The battle took place Friday night in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, which lies near the border of the two Caucasus countries. Both sides have accused the other of starting the fight.

“Twelve Azeri servicemen were killed in action and a helicopter was shot down by Armenian forces,” said the Azerbaijan defense ministry in a statement. The statement also claimed that Azeri forces took two key positions and a village in the disputed territory.

Armenia’s President Serzh Sarkisian confirmed in a television statement that 18 ethnic Armenians were killed in the fight. He did not specify if they belonged to Armenia’s military or separatist forces from Nagorno-Karabakh, which are backed by the Armenian government in the capital of Yerevan.

Artsrun Hovhannisyan, a spokesman for the Armenian defense ministry, claimed in a Facebook post that Armenian forces had shot down an Azeri helicopter. Azerbaijan has since denied that claim.

The Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Ministry, which is part of the so-called Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, claimed that Azeri forces killed a child and injured two civilians.

Armenia and Azerbaijan engaged in a war over Nagorno-Karabakh in 1994. Since then, the Armenian military and local separatist forces have controlled the region, though dispute over the area is ongoing. The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is closely tied with Armenia, yet the United Nations recognizes the territory as part of Azerbaijan.

Fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the territory has been ongoing since 1918, after the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic and First Republic of Armenia both gained independence. The Soviet Union took control of the area in 1923 and held it until 1991. Fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the territory restarted after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, resulting in a war that lasted from 1991 to 1994. A ceasefire brought a temporary end to the fighting as well as the current political situation.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose country shares a border with Azerbaijan, has called for an end to the fighting, though Russia has armed both countries in the past.

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