BELGRADE – Heavy fighting has been reported in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh inside Azerbaijan, RFE/RL reports.
The Armenian military has accused Azerbaijani forces of launching a major offensive, involving tanks, heavy artillery, and helicopter gunships.
The Azerbaijani military said its frontline forces had first come under “intensive fire” overnight and that the Azerbaijani Army had to take “urgent measures” to respond.
Nagorno-Karabakh lies inside Azerbaijan but is controlled by ethnic Armenians.
The Armenian Defense Ministry said there were “casualties on both sides” as fighting appeared to be continuing.
The ministry called it the most serious escalation of fighting in the conflict since a 1994 truce and called on the United States, Russia, and France — all involved in international efforts to mediate the conflict — to urgently intervene.
Nagorno-Karabakh’s Defense Ministry said “fierce clashes are taking place along the entire line of contact.”
Karabakh forces also claim to have shot down an Azerbaijani military helicopter. That report has not been independently confirmed.
The conflict broke out in the dying years of the Soviet Union but efforts to reach a permanent settlement have failed.
Nagorno-Karabakh, populated mainly by ethnic Armenians, declared independence from Azerbaijan after a 1988-94 war that claimed an estimated 30,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.
Internationally mediated negotiations with the involvement of the OSCE’s so-called Minsk Group have failed to result in a resolution. The Minsk Group is co-chaired by France, Russia, and the United States.