Armenia and Azerbaijan continue deadly fight for disputed region


Clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijani forces over the disputed separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh are continuing after hostilities broke out on Sunday.

The Azerbaijani Defence Ministry claimed that Armenian forces started shelling the town of Tartar on Monday morning, while Armenian officials said the fighting continued throughout the night and Baku resumed "offensive actions" in the morning.

Azerbaijan's Defence Ministry told the Interfax news agency that more than 550 Armenian troops have been "destroyed (including those wounded)", a claim that Armenian officials denied.

According to Nagorno-Karabakh officials, 31 servicemen have been killed so far. On Sunday, the territory's defence ministry also reported two civilian deaths – a woman and her grandson.

Some 200 people have been wounded in the fighting, the Armenian Defence Ministry said on Monday, while Azerbaijani authorities said 26 civilians have been wounded on their side.

The heavy fighting broke out on Sunday morning in the region that lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since 1994 at the end of a separatist war.

It was not immediately clear what sparked the fighting, the heaviest since clashes in July killed 16 people from both sides.

Mostly mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh – a region around 1,700 square miles — lies 30 miles from the Armenian border. Local soldiers backed by Armenia also occupy some Azerbaijani territory outside the region.

The European Union has urged both sides to halt the fighting and return to the negotiating table, following similar calls by Iran, Russia, France and the United States.

"We hope and we urge everyone to do everything they can in order to prevent an all-out war from breaking out, because this is the last thing the region needs," European Commission spokesman Peter Stano told reporters in Brussels. "There is no military solution to this conflict."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh "is a cause for concern for Moscow and other countries".

"We believe that the hostilities should be immediately ended," Mr Peskov told reporters, adding that the process of resolving the conflict between the two countries should shift into "a politico-diplomatic" dimension.

Armenia's Foreign Ministry has accused Turkey, who sides with Azerbaijan in the conflict, of "supporting this aggression".

The ministry said "Turkish military experts are fighting side by side with Azerbaijan, who are using Turkish weapons, including UAVs and warplanes". The situation on the ground "clearly indicates" that people in Nagorno-Karabakh are fighting against "a Turkish-Azerbaijani alliance", the statement read.

Both Armenia and Turkey have accused each other of recruiting foreign mercenaries.