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Iran defense minister urges swift end to Nagorno-Karabakh clashes

Iran’s Defense Minister Brigadier-General Hossein Dehqan

Iran’s defense minister has talked with his Azeri and Armenian counterparts over ongoing clashes involving the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Brigadier-General Hossein Dehqan held a telephone conversation with Colonels-General Zakir Hasanov and Seyran Ohanyan on Sunday, insisting on the need for the confrontation to come to an end as soon as possible.

He also urged restraint by both countries and advised that the crisis be resolved through negotiations.

As many as 12 Azeri soldiers and 18 Armenian forces have been killed in the worst violence to engulf the border region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is disputed by the two, over the past two days. Both sides have accused one another of having initiated offensive.

A video grab, made on April 2, 2016, shows an image taken from footage made available by the Nagorno-Karabakh’s Defense Ministry reportedly showing a damaged house in the disputed region ©AFP

The region, which is located in Azerbaijan but is populated by Armenians, has been under the control of local ethnic Armenian militia and Armenian troops since the two republics fought a war over it in 1994 that ended through Russian mediation.

Earlier in the day, Azerbaijan announced unilateral ceasefire as a gesture of goodwill, but warned it will "liberate all occupied territories" in case the Armenian forces "do not stop provocations."

Azeri officials and authorities in the region, however, say fighting is persisting, with Vagif Dargyakhly, a spokesman for Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry reporting on Sunday that Azerbaijani positions had come under fire overnight and that civilian areas had also been hit.

Deputy Governor-General for Political and Security Affairs in Iran’s East Azarbaijan Province, Saeid Shabestari Khiabani said three artillery rounds had hit the vicinity of a village belonging to the province’s Khoda Afarin County on Saturday.

The projectiles, he said, damaged a power pole resulting in power cut in the area.

The province’s border guard subsequently demanded to meet representatives of the fighting parties, who were issued stern warning and pledged that such incidents would not recur, the official added. “The province’s armed forces and the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Border Guard Command are prepared to deliver determined and devastating response to any violation of our country’s soil.”

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