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New tensions explode over Karabakh, 3 soldiers killed

#tensions #explode #Karabakh #soldiers #killed

New tensions explode over Karabakh, 3 soldiers killed

Raw (AFP) –

Emil Guliyev with Mariam Harutyunyan in Yerevan

Tensions erupted in Nagorno-Karabakh on Wednesday, when three soldiers were killed and Azerbaijan said it had taken control of several strategic heights in the disputed region.

The escalation prompted international reactions, with Russia accusing Baku of violating the brittle ceasefire and urging the European Union for an “immediate cessation of hostilities”.

Arch-enemies Armenia and Azerbaijan fought two wars – in 2020 and in the 1990s – over Azerbaijan’s Armenian-populated Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Armenia has ceded parts of territory it had controlled for decades and Russia dispatched some 2,000 peacekeepers to oversee the fragile truce, but tensions linger despite a ceasefire deal.

Tensions erupted on Wednesday when Azerbaijan said it had lost a soldier and the Karabakh army said two of its troops were killed and more than a dozen injured.

Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said Karabakh forces attacked its army positions in Lakhin district, which is under the supervision of the Russian peacekeeping force, and killed an Azerbaijani conscript.

The Azerbaijani army later said it conducted an operation called “Revenge” in response, taking control of several strategic heights in Karabakh.

For its part, the army of the breakaway small state accused Azerbaijan of violating a ceasefire, killing two soldiers and wounding 14 others.

Karabakh has declared a “partial mobilization,” the army said in a statement.

Armenia called on the international community to stop Azerbaijan’s “aggressive actions” after the flare-up.

“Azerbaijan continues its policy of terror against the people of Nagorno-Karabakh,” the Foreign Ministry said.

Armenia accused Azerbaijan of making unilateral changes to the Lachin Corridor connecting Armenia and Karabakh.

Russia accused Azerbaijan of breaking the ceasefire and promised to stabilize the situation.

“The ceasefire regime was violated by the armed forces of Azerbaijan around the Saribaba Heights,” Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement.

“The command of the Russian peacekeeping force with representatives of Azerbaijan and Armenia is taking measures to stabilize the situation.”

– “Important for de-escalation” –

The escalation came after Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on Tuesday.

The European Union called for an “immediate cessation of hostilities” between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces in Karabakh.

“It is important to de-escalate, fully respect the ceasefire and return to the negotiating table to seek negotiated solutions,” EU foreign policy spokesman Josep Borrell said in a statement.

“The European Union remains determined to help resolve tensions and to continue its commitment to sustainable peace and stability in the South Caucasus,” added Borrell’s spokesman.

Following Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine on February 24, increasingly isolated Moscow lost its status as the primary mediator in the Karabakh conflict.

Six weeks of fighting in the fall of 2020 claimed more than 6,500 lives and ended in a Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement.

In July, Azerbaijan began the process of repatriating its people to the country retaken from Armenian separatists, in what Baku calls “The Great Return.”

The oil-rich country has vowed to repopulate territories retaken in the six-week war with Armenia.

President Ilham Aliyev had promised for years to retake land lost in the 1990s, and the first return marked a symbolic moment for Azerbaijan.

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