Ceasefire called after Armenian soldiers killed in clashes

Incident was one of the deadliest since a six-week war between ethnic Armenian forces and Baku over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Soldiers walk in a trench at a border checkpoint between Armenia and Azerbaijan near the village of Sotk [File: Karen Minasyan/AFP]
Soldiers walk in a trench at a border checkpoint between Armenia and Azerbaijan near the village of Sotk [File: Karen Minasyan/AFP]

Armenia said on Wednesday that three of its soldiers had been killed in an exchange of gunfire with Azerbaijan and both sides later accepted a Russian ceasefire proposal to try to calm tensions.

Armenia’s defence ministry said in a statement that Azeri forces had attacked Armenian positions near the border between the two countries. Four Armenian servicemen were injured in the same incident, it said.

Azerbaijan’s defence ministry said two of its soldiers had been wounded by shelling.

In a statement, it accused Armenian forces of what it called “provocations” in the Kalbajar district and said its army would continue to retaliate.

It later said it had accepted a Russian proposal to enforce a ceasefire in the area, but also accused Armenia of continuing to shell Azeri positions. Armenia’s defence ministry also said it had accepted the ceasefire.

The incident was one of the deadliest since a six-week war between ethnic Armenian forces and Baku over the Nagorno-Karabakh region and surrounding areas ended last year.

Armenia’s defence ministry said an intense gun battle had taken place near the village of Sotk close to the border with Azerbaijan’s Kelbajar region, one of those Baku reclaimed after the war that claimed some 6,500 lives.

“The Azerbaijani side is deliberately escalating the situation as its forces remain illegally on Armenia’s sovereign territory,” Armenia’s foreign ministry said.

For its part, Azerbaijan’s defence ministry said Armenian forces had opened fire towards Azerbaijani positions in Kelbajar in the early hours of Wednesday and that two of its servicemen had been wounded.

“Armenia bears full responsibility for the escalation of tensions,” it said.

In six weeks of fighting last September to November, Azeri troops drove ethnic Armenian forces out of swaths of territory they had controlled since the 1990s in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, before Russia brokered a ceasefire.

Moscow has since deployed some 2,000 peacekeepers in the area to oversee the ceasefire.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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