Clashes on Armenia-Azerbaijan border leave 3 dead, 4 wounded

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YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) — Armenia's Defense Ministry said Wednesday that three of its troops were killed and two more were wounded in clashes with Azerbaijani forces on the border between the two ex-Soviet nations, which have been locked in a decades-long tug-of-war over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry said two of its servicemen were wounded on Wednesday.

Both countries have accused each other of starting the clashes. Azerbaijan said Armenian forces opened fire at its positions on the Kalbajar section of the border. The Armenian military said its personnel were attacked by the Azerbaijani forces.

Armenian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that “the Azerbaijani side has been deliberately initiating escalation," and the Foreign Ministry in Azerbaijan said in turn that “the responsibility for aggravating the situation by committing another provocation on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border lies entirely with the military-political leadership of Armenia.”

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

In the wake of the clashes on Wednesday, Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry urged Armenia “to stop military provocations and start negotiations on the delimitation of the two state borders.”

Armenia's Foreign Ministry vowed to “use all its military-political tools in accordance with international law” in response “to the use of force by Azerbaijan against the territorial integrity of Armenia.”

More than 6,000 people were killed last fall in the six weeks of fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh, which lies within Azerbaijan but was under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a separatist war there ended in 1994.

The hostilities ended with a Russia-brokered peace deal in November allowing Azerbaijan to reclaim control over large parts of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas, which Armenia-backed separatists controlled for more than 25 years.

Aida Sultanova in Baku, Azerbaijan, contributed to this report.

Avet Demourian, The Associated Press

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