Azerbaijan army takes over one of three districts Armenia agreed to give back in disputed region as part of peace deal.
Fighting continued on Sunday between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, violating the November ceasefire that ended the bloody conflict.
Azerbaijan’s defence ministry said four of its soldiers were killed when their units were attacked in areas adjacent to the Nagorno-Karabakh region, while authorities in Armenia said six of their troops had been wounded.
Armenia and Azerbaijan on Saturday accused each other of breaching the deal, which ended six weeks of fierce fighting over the disputed territory, with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev threatening to crush Armenian forces with an “iron fist”.
“Armenia shouldn’t try to start it all over again,” Aliyev said during a meeting with top diplomats from the United States and France, who have tried to mediate the decades-old conflict.
“It must be very cautious and not plan any military action. This time, we will fully destroy them. It mustn’t be a secret to anyone.”
Earlier on Saturday, Nagorno-Karabakh forces said three of their fighters had been wounded in an attack by Azerbaijani forces.
The Armenian army also reported attacks from Azerbaijan on two villages that are under the control of Nagorno-Karabakh forces.
Yerevan said Armenian forces repelled attempted intrusions into territories supposed to remain under the control of the rebel province’s government, namely the Hin Tagher and Khtsaberd villages.
“The provocations of Azerbaijan continued today in the direction of the villages of Mets Shen and Hin Shen in the Hadrut region,” Armenia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
In another statement, Armenia’s defence ministry said: “negotiations between Armenian, Russian and Azerbaijani servicemen are under way to resolve the situation in Hadrut and ensure the return of the parties to their former positions”.
A spokesman for the Russian peacekeeping forces confirmed “exchanges of fire with automatic weapons”, telling the Ria Novosti press agency that requests to respect the ceasefire had been sent to both parties.
“One case of ceasefire violation was reported on December 11 in the Hadrut district,” said a statement from the Russian ministry of defence, without assigning any blame.
Russia has peacekeepers in the region, large parts of which were reclaimed by Azerbaijan last month after being held by Armenian forces for more than a quarter-century.
It was Russia’s first report of a violation since the peace deal was reached on November 10.
Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but is populated and, until recently, was fully controlled by ethnic Armenians after a bloody war in the 1990s that saw them seize outlying regions belonging to Azerbaijan.
In 44 days of fighting that began in late September and left more than 5,600 people dead on both sides, the Azerbaijani army pushed deep into Nagorno-Karabakh, forcing Armenia to accept last month’s peace deal that saw Azerbaijan reclaim significant territory.
Russia deployed nearly 2,000 peacekeepers for at least five years to monitor the peace deal and to facilitate the return of refugees.
Azerbaijan marked its victory with a military parade on Thursday that was attended by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and involved more than 3,000 troops, dozens of military vehicles, and a flyby of combat aircraft.