Karabakh Blames Azerbaijan for New Fighting

STEPANAKERT (Combined sources)–Authorities of Nagorno-Karabakh on Tuesday blamed Azerbaijan for Monday’s outburst of fighting along the north-eastern section of the region’s border. The foreign ministry of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic accused Baku of breaching a 1994 truce with the ultimate aim of forcibly restoring its control over the Armenian-populated region–reported Radio Free/Radio Liberty.

Karabakh officials–said that Azeri army units tried to "bring their positions close to the Nagorno Karabakh Republic’s frontier" but were forced to retreat after sustaining heavy casualties. Stepanakert said in a statement that two Karabakh soldiers were wounded in the shoot-out. "The Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army stopped the advance of Azeri troops," the statement said.

However–the Azeri government offered a diametrically opposite version of the incident–saying that their positions were attacked by Karabakh Armenian forces. They announced that two of its soldiers were killed and four others wounded.

A senior US diplomat touring Armenia and Azerbaijan last month said Washington is ready to redouble its efforts to hammer out a peace deal.

The Karabakh statement said the latest incident testifies to Azerbaijan’s intention to resolve the decade-long conflict by force. It said Baku’s accusations are a propaganda ploy designed to "mislead the international community." It added that the Armenian side is ready for a "constructive dialogue" with Azerbaijan.

The statement read as follows:

Statement of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Foreign Ministry

The Azeri Defense Ministry recently alleged that the Nagorno Karabakh Republic defense forces undertook an offensive on the Mardakert section of the line of contact of two sides.

The Karabakh Foreign Ministry declares that this information–as well as the allegation of significant Karabakh losses–does not correspond to the true course of events.

In reality–during the night of June 14–1999–the Azeri armed forces–having violated the cease-fire–once again attempted to re-deploy their units to immediate proximity of the defensive positions of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic. In an attempt to avoid further escalation of tension–the units of Karabakh defense forces made repeated warnings to the Azeri side to stop the provocative movemen’s–and then undertook necessary measures to stop the further advance of Azeri armed forces. Suffering losses–the Azeri forces withdrew to their original positions. Two soldiers of the Karabakh defense forces were wounded.

In these circumstances–the Nagorno Karabakh Republic Foreign Ministry wants to bring to the attention of all interested parties the repeated steps taken by official Baku aimed at misinforming the international community–and wishing to disguise the real situation in the conflict zone. The recent speculations of the Azeri propagandists about the alleged deployment of the Chinese-made "Typhoon" multiple rocket launchers in Nagorno Karabakh should be viewed in the same context.

Azerbaijan’s refusal to accept the latest proposal of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen and threats issued by Azeri officials–first of all by the Defense Minister Safar Abiyev–leave no doubt about the real objective of the policy of provocation and misinformation–to resolve the Karabakh conflict by force.

The fragile peace that has been holding for over five years due largely to the military-political balance and efforts of the international community should not depend on the aggressive nationalist ambitions of the current Azeri leadership.

The Karabakh Foreign Ministry reiterates the Republic’s commitment to the exclusively peaceful resolution of conflict with Azerbaijan through negotiations–and calls on the Azeri leadership to cease their propaganda of ethnic hatred–misinformation–and begin a constructive dialogue involving all sides to the conflict–to reach as soon as possible–a comprehensive resolution to the existing problems.

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