Azerbaijan says its forces have suppressed an Armenian attack near the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, prompting international calls for an end to fighting in a region that has been a flashpoint for 30 years.
Nagorno-Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan with Armenian support after a bloody post-Soviet conflict in the early 1990s. In 2020, Azerbaijan and Armenia fought a war over the region and Baku successfully won back part of the territory controlled by the separatists.
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Under the terms of a subsequent ceasefire, Russian peacekeepers were deployed to protect the remainder of the separatist-held territory. Both sides accuse each other of breaches, and in recent days violence has flared.
The Azeri defence ministry on Wednesday said Armenia had grossly violated the ceasefire by committing an act of sabotage that killed one soldier.
In addition, Baku said its forces had beaten back an Armenian attempt to capture a hill in an area controlled by the Russian peacekeepers.
It demanded the disarmament of “illegal Armenian formations” around the disputed territory, and also said it has taken control of several strategic heights in the region.
Meanwhile, Armenia called on the international community to help stop Azerbaijan’s “aggressive actions” after the flare-up and accused Baku of breaking the ceasefire.
Earlier, separatist authorities in the territory declared a partial mobilisation.
Call for de-escalation
Russia’s defence ministry said the situation in and around Nagorno-Karabakh was deteriorating, according to Russian media reports.
The European Union called for an “immediate cessation of hostilities” between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh.
“It is essential to de-escalate, fully respect the ceasefire and return to the negotiating table to seek negotiated solutions,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell’s spokesman said in a statement.
Six weeks of fighting in late 2020 claimed more than 6,500 lives and ended with a Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement.
Armenia ceded swathes of territory it had controlled for decades, and Russia deployed some 2,000 peacekeepers to oversee the fragile truce, but tensions persist despite a ceasefire agreement.