Armenia and Azerbaijani forces kept fighting Monday over the disputed separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh after hostilities broke out the day before, with both sides blaming each other for resuming the deadly attacks that reportedly also wounded scores of people.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry claimed that Armenian forces started shelling the town of Tartar on Monday morning, while Armenian officials said the fighting continued throughout the night and Baku resumed “offensive actions” in the morning.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry told the Interfax news agency Monday that over 550 Armenian troops have been “destroyed (including those wounded)”, a claim that Armenian officials denied.
According to Nagorno-Karabakh officials, 31 servicemen have been killed so far. Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman Artsrun Hovhannisyan said Monday over 200 people have been wounded. Azerbaijani authorities said 26 civilians have been wounded on their side as well.
The heavy fighting broke out on Sunday morning in the region that lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since 1994 at the end of a separatist war.
It was not immediately clear what sparked the fighting, the heaviest since clashes in July killed 16 people from both sides.
Mostly mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh — a region around 4,400 square kilometers (1,700 square miles) or about the size of the U.S. state of Delaware — lies 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the Armenian border. Local soldiers backed by Armenia also occupy some Azerbaijani territory outside the region.
The European Union on Monday urged both sides to halt the fighting and return to the negotiating table, following similar calls by Iran, Russia, France and the United States.
“We hope and we urge everyone to everything they can in order to prevent an all-out war from breaking out, because this is the last thing the region needs,” European Commission spokesman Peter Stano told reporters in Brussels. “There is no military solution to this conflict.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday that the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh “is a cause for concern for Moscow and other countries.”
“We believe that the hostilities should be immediately ended,” Peskov told reporters, adding that the process of resolving the conflict between the two countries should shift into “a politico-diplomatic” dimension.