Azeris Step Up Cease-Fire Violations Over the Weekend

BAKU (Combined Sources)-Azeri and Armenian forces exchanged gunfire near the Aghdam region of Nagorno-Karabakh over the weekend. According to officials in Baku, two civilians and at least two soldiers were killed in the fighting.
Armenian officials confirmed the weekend shooting, but denied there were fatalities on either side.
Azerbaijani Defense Ministry spokesman Eldar Sabiroglu said two Azerbaijani civilians were killed and two wounded in the shooting overnight.
On Sunday, meanwhile, more small-arms fire broke out in another adjacent region, killing one Azeri soldier and injuring another. An Armenian soldier was killed also, Sabiroglu said.
A Nagorno-Karabakh military spokesman, Lt. Col. Senor Hasratian, denied there were fatalities, either civilian or military during the weekend skirmishes.
"As long as you don’t consider the regular violations of the cease-fire from the Azeri side, then one could say that the situation along the line of control are fully normal," he told The Associated Press.
In Yerevan, meanwhile, the skirmishes prompted comment from President Robert Kocharian, who told reporters that two Armenian officers were wounded when Azeri forces attacked an outpost on Nagorno-Karabakh’s outskirts. "It’s been a long time since artillery was used on the front line," he said, adding that mediators from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe later worked to persuade both sides to halt their gunfire.
International mediators urged Armenia and Azerbaijan late Friday to respect the ceasefire in the zone of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and accept a framework peace accord put forward by the OSCE Minsk Group.
In a joint statement, the group’s French, Russian and U.S. co-chairs said the conflicting parties should "restore confidence along the Line of Contact and desist from any further confrontations, escalation of violence or warmongering rhetoric."
The Minsk Group’s US co-chair, Matthew Bryza, discussed the incident during a visit to Baku and Yerevan last week.
"As of today, the ceasefire has been restored and the situation on the Line of Contact is calm," the mediating troika said. "The Co-Chairs call upon both sides to strictly abide by the provisions of the Arrangement on strengthening the ceasefire in the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict."
"The Co-Chairs reiterate that there is no military solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The outbreak of hostilities would destabilize the entire region, with calamitous consequences for all involved."
The co-chairs further called Baku and Yerevan to "redouble their efforts to endorse the Basic Principles for the peaceful resolution of the conflict presented to the sides on the margins of the Madrid OSCE Ministerial in November 2007, and to begin as soon as possible the process of drafting a peace agreement on this basis."


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