At least four soldiers have been killed in the latest round of confrontation between Armenia and Azerbaijan along the shared border of the two Caucasus countries.
Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman, Artsrun Hovhannisyan, said Thursday that three Armenian troops had been killed in the shootout that erupted near the Armenian village of Chinari.
“In the early hours of Thursday morning, Azerbaijani armed forces attempted a subversive intrusion into Armenian territory,” Hovhannisyan said, adding that the fighting was still underway, “with both sides using grenade launchers and sniper rifles.”
Meanwhile, Azerbaijan rejected Yerevan’s claim that it had initiated the clash, saying it was the Armenians who triggered the clash by sending a “subversive group” to Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that the Armenian group “was ambushed as it attempted to violate the Azerbaijani state border.”
“The enemy suffered heavy losses and was forced to retreat,” it said, adding that one Azerbaijani soldier was killed in the combat.
For more than 20 years, Azerbaijan and Armenia have been locked in a bitter dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, an area which is recognized as part of Azerbaijan’s territory but controlled by Armenia-backed separatists.
A bloody war over the territory, which killed some 30,000 people, ended in a truce in 1994, but cross-border fire has continued along the frontline and across the border. The two ex-soviet states are yet to sign a permanent peace deal.
Hostilities escalated in April, when Armenia and Azerbaijan were nearly on the brink of a full-out war. The surge in violence claimed at least 110 lives from the two sides before Russia intervened and brokered a ceasefire. Attempts for re-launching a peace process have failed since then.