Soldiers killed in firefight between Armenia and Azerbaijan

  • World
  • Tuesday, 11 Apr 2023

TBILISI/BAKU (Reuters) - South Caucasus rivals Armenia and Azerbaijan on Tuesday accused each other of opening fire around the contested Nagorno-Karabkah region in a clash that resulted in deaths on both sides.

Defence ministries from both countries issued statements on Tuesday afternoon saying an unspecified number of their own troops had been killed in a clash close to the contested Lachin Corridor.

The two South Caucasus countries - both formerly part of the Soviet Union - have fought multiple wars over the last 35 years for control of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but home to a mainly ethnic Armenian population.

In a statement, Armenia's defence ministry said Azerbaijani troops opened fire at around 4 p.m. (1200 GMT) against Armenian troops who were performing engineering work near the village of Tegh in Armenia's southern Syunik province. It said its forces had taken "countermeasures", without providing details.

Tegh is not located in the disputed territory, but is the last village in Armenian territory on a key road route linking Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh.

Azerbaijan's defence ministry said its troops came under "intense fire" from Armenian troops stationed in the Syunik province.

Both sides said they had suffered fatalities, but did not provide details.

The latest stand-off between the two bitter rivals has come over control of the Lachin Corridor - the only road route linking Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijanis claiming to be environmental protesters have been blocking the route since the end of last year, resulting in what Armenia has called a humanitarian crisis as food and medicine have been unable to be transported into the region.

Baku denies those claims, says essential supplies can get into the territory and has defended the protesters as rallying against legitimate environmental concerns. Yerevan has called them government-backed agitators.

Russia dispatched a thousands-strong peacekeeping contingent to the region in 2020 as part of a deal to end weeks of fighting that killed thousands and saw Azerbaijan make significant territorial gains. Moscow is an ally of Armenia through a mutual self-defence pact, but also strives for good relations with Baku. The latest stand-off has been seen as a key test of Moscow's ongoing influence in the region as it wages its own war in Ukraine.

(Reporting by Jake Cordell and Felix Light in Tbilisi, Nailia Bagirova in Baku; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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