By Elman Mamedov (AFP) – Jun 5, 2012
BAKU — Armenian forces killed five Azerbaijani soldiers in a border clash Tuesday, in a new flaring of tensions as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits the volatile Caucasus region.
The Azerbaijani defence ministry said fighting broke out when "a group of Armenian saboteurs made an attempt to penetrate the military positions of the national army" in the country's north-west -- the second reported outbreak of deadly violence along the border between the ex-Soviet enemies this week.
"During the fight, four soldiers of the Azerbaijani armed forces were killed and another died as a result of the Armenians opening fire," the ministry said in a statement.
Armenia however blamed Azerbaijan for causing the violence, saying that "a subversive group of 15 to 20 people attempted to infiltrate Armenian territory.
"Thanks to the vigilance of the Armenian servicemen, the group was discovered and neutralised. Five were killed and many others wounded from the Azerbaijani side," the Armenian defence ministry said in a statement, adding that none of its troops were injured.
On Monday, Armenia alleged that Azerbaijani forces had killed three of its soldiers and wounded six more when an attempted military incursion ended in a firefight on the border, a report Baku denied.
Azerbaijan and Armenia are locked in a long-running conflict over the territory of Nagorny Karabakh, where they fought a war in the 1990s that killed some 30,000 people.
Unusually, this week's clashes erupted well to the north of the disputed region.
According to Azerbaijan's defence ministry, Tuesday's violence hit the region west of the Azerbaijani town of Gazakh. The deadly clashes on Monday also took place nearby.
Visiting Yerevan on Monday, Clinton said she was concerned by the rising tensions and warned Armenia and Azerbaijan not to settle their conflict by force.
"I am very concerned about the danger of escalation of tensions and the senseless deaths of young soldiers and innocent civilians," she said after Monday's violence.
"The use of force will not resolve the Nagorny Karabakh conflict and therefore force must not be used."
The Karabakh war saw Armenia-backed separatists seize the mountainous enclave from Azerbaijan amid a bitter struggle that caused hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes in both countries.
Despite years of negotiations since the 1994 ceasefire, the two sides have not yet signed a final peace deal and there are still frequent exchanges of gunfire along the front line.
Azerbaijan has threatened to use force to win back Karabakh if peace talks fail to yield satisfactory results, but Armenia has warned of large-scale retaliation against any military action.
On Wednesday Clinton is due to visit Baku, where officials said that finding a resolution to the Karabakh conflict would be the main topic of discussion.
"We expect good results from the meeting with Clinton," Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov told journalists.
Mammadyarov blamed Yerevan for thwarting progress toward a peace deal, saying that "sometimes we cannot understand the Armenian side's logic".
The latest round of talks in Russia in January ended with promises to speed up the process but failed to make any visible steps toward signing a "basic principles" roadmap agreement, seen as key to any settlement.
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