New attacks increase strains on Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire
* The truce between Nagorno and Karabakh came into force on Saturday
* Both sides accuse each other of violating this
By Nailia Bagirova and Nvard Hovhannisyan
BAKU / YEREVAN, October 12 (Reuters). The Azerbaijani and Armenian forces on Monday accused themselves of launching new attacks in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, adding pressure to a humanitarian ceasefire designed to stop the worst fighting for the enclave for more than 25 years.
Azerbaijan said its military positions were shelled overnight. Nagorno-Karabakh, internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but populated and ruled by ethnic Armenians, said its armed forces had repelled attacks by the Azerbaijani army.
The ceasefire was already heavily frayed on Sunday when Azerbaijan launched air strikes against an Armenian regiment after an Armenian rocket attack on a civilian residential building.
Armenia denied both Azerbaijani claims, and Reuters was unable to independently verify the reports.
The humanitarian ceasefire, which came into force on Saturday, was agreed during talks in Moscow to allow ethnic Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh and the Azerbaijani army to exchange prisoners and bodies of those killed in action.
The talks were the first diplomatic contact between the two former Soviet republics since the fighting over the mountain enclave broke out on September 27. About 500 people have been killed since then.
The Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan was supposed to hold talks with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Monday.
The Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense said Monday that Armenian forces had repeatedly attempted to attack their positions in the Aghdere-Aghdam and Fizuli-Jabrail regions and would continue to bombard areas in the Goranboy, Terter and Aghdam regions of Azerbaijan.
Nagorno-Karabakh authorities said their armed forces had inflicted casualties on the Azerbaijani armed forces, and large-scale military operations were continuing in the Hadrut area of the tiny enclave.
Reuters was unable to independently verify the reports.
The conflict has raised fears of a major war in Turkey, an ally of Azerbaijan, and in Russia, which has a defense pact with Armenia.
The renewed fighting is the worst since a 1994 ceasefire that ended a war over Nagorno-Karabakh that killed at least 30,000 people. It has also raised concerns about the safety of pipelines in Azerbaijan that carry Azerbaijani natural gas and oil to Europe.
(Additional reporting by Margarita Antidze in Tbilisi’s writing by Sujata Rao, editing by Andrew Osborn and Timothy Heritage)
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