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New flare-up in Nagorno-Karabakh dispute kills 3 Armenian soldiers

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This image shows what is said to be a destroyed Armenian military armored vehicle in the countryside outside the towns of Hadrut and Khojavend, in Nagorno-Karabakh, on November 30, 2020. (By AFP)

Three Armenian soldiers have been killed in a cross-border exchange of fire with Azeri forces in Nagorno-Karabakh, where a truce has been in place between Armenia and Azerbaijan since November last year.

Armenia's Defense Ministry said that as of 8:30 am (0430 GMT) Wednesday, three Armenian soldiers had been killed and two wounded in an exchange of fire that started in the early hours of the day.

The Armenian Foreign Ministry blamed Azerbaijan for the flare-up. "The Azerbaijani side is deliberately escalating the situation as its forces remain illegally on Armenia's sovereign territory," it said.

In response, Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry said that troops had responded to what it called "provocations" initiated by the Armenian side against Azeri positions in Kalbajar. It said two Azerbaijani servicemen had been wounded.

"Armenia bears full responsibility for the escalation of tensions," Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry said in its statement.

It added that Azerbaijan had agreed to resume the ceasefire from 10:00 am local time (0600 GMT), but that Armenian forces had continued shelling its positions with tanks and mortars.

Still, the Russian Interfax news agency reported on Wednesday that the Armenian and Azerbaijani sides had both agreed to resume the ceasefire.

Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a deadly war over the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts for six weeks from late September to early November last year. Russian mediation ended that war, and a ceasefire was in effect until the Wednesday conflagration, which ignited concerns about a potential resumption of armed conflict.

Over 5,000 Armenian and Azerbaijani soldiers had been killed or gone missing by the time the war ended last year.

Russia has deployed some 2,000 peacekeepers to the conflict zone to monitor the ceasefire.

The deep-rooted territorial and ethnic dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which are situated in the South Caucasus region, has been ongoing for decades.

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