Fighting breaks out between Armenia and Azerbaijan in disputed area

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Clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan erupted around the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh on Sunday and the Armenian defense ministry said two Azerbaijani helicopters were shot down.Ministry spokesman Shushan Stepanyan also said Armenian forces hit three Azerbaijani tanks. There was no word on the victims.

Nagorno-Karabakh is an ethnic Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan that has escaped Azerbaijani control since a war ended in 1994. Both sides have a strong military presence along a demilitarized zone separating the region from the rest of Azerbaijan.

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry denied the claim that its helicopters and tanks were hit. But President Ilham Aliyev said in a televised address to the nation that “there are losses among Azerbaijani forces and the civilian population as a result of the Armenian bombardment.”

Stepanyan said the fighting started with an Azerbaijani attack on Sunday, but Azerbaijan said the Armenian side attacked and Azerbaijan launched a counteroffensive.

Turkey condemns the “provocation”

The news was harshly received in Turkey, a close ally of Azerbaijan.

Turkey’s ruling party spokesman Omer Celik tweeted: “We vehemently condemn Armenia’s attack on Azerbaijan. Armenia once again committed a provocation, ignoring the law. He promised Turkey to stand by Azerbaijan’s side and declared: “Armenia is playing with fire and endangering regional peace.”

Turkish presidency spokesman Ibrahim Kalin also took to Twitter to condemn Armenia. “Armenia violated the ceasefire by attacking civilian settlements… the international community must immediately stop this dangerous provocation. ”

Primarily mountainous, Nagorno-Karabakh – an area of ​​about 4,400 square kilometers or about the size of the US state of Delaware – lies 50 kilometers from the Armenian border. Local Armenian-backed soldiers also occupy part of Azerbaijani territory outside the region.

International efforts to resolve the conflict have stalled and fighting breaks out sporadically. In July, one of the most serious outbreaks in years left 16 people dead on both sides.

Azerbaijan on Nagorno-Karabakh region, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said on Sunday his country declared martial law and full military mobilization following the clashes.

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