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Fighting Erupts in Armenia, Azerbaijan 09/27 11:09


   YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) -- Fighting erupted anew Sunday between Armenian and 
Azerbaijani forces over the disputed separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh and 
a top territorial official said 16 people were killed and more than 100 
wounded, while Azerbaijan's president said his military has suffered losses.

   Armenia also claimed that two Azerbaijani helicopters were shot down and 
three Azerbaijani tanks were hit by artillery, but Azerbaijan's defense 
ministry rejected that claim.

   Heavy fighting broke out in the 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.

   Nagorno-Karabakh authorities reported that shelling hit the region's capital 
of Stepanakert and the towns of Martakert and Martuni. Armenian Defense 
Ministry spokesman Artsrun Hovhannisyan also said Azerbaijani shelling hit 
within Armenian territory near the town of Vardenis.

   Artur Sarkisian, deputy head of the Nagorno-Karabakh army, said that 16 
people were killed and more than 100 wounded. It wasn't immediately clear if 
the figure included both soldiers and civilians. Earlier, the Armenian human 
rights ombudsman said a woman and child had been killed in the shelling.

   Another Armenian Defense Ministry spokeswoman, Shushan Stepanyan, said "the 
Armenian side" shot down two helicopters and hit three tanks.

   Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev ordered martial law be imposed in some 
regions of the country and called for a curfew in major cities.

   In a televised address to the nation, Aliyev said that "there are losses 
among the Azerbaijani forces and the civilian population as a result of the 
Armenian bombardment," but didn't give further details. He also claimed that 
"many units of the enemy's military equipment have been destroyed."

   Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov "is conducting intensive contacts in 
order to induce the parties to cease fire and start negotiations to stabilize 
the situation," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

   Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, chairman of the Organization for Security 
and Cooperation in Europe, called on the sides to stop fighting. The 
long-unsuccessful negotiations for resolving the territory's status has been 
conducted under OSCE auspices.

   Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian on Sunday said the country could 
reexamine whether to recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as independent. Such a move 
would likely obstruct further negotiations.

   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 has once again committed a provocation, 
ignoring law." He promised Turkey would stand by Azerbaijan and said, "Armenia 
is playing with fire and endangering regional peace."

   Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin also condemned Armenia.

   "Armenia has violated the cease-fire by attacking civilian settlements ... 
the international community must immediately say stop to this dangerous 
provocation," Kalin tweeted.

   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.

   At the Vatican, Pope Francis said Sunday that he was praying for peace 
between the two countries, urging them to them to "accomplish concrete deeds of 
goodwill and fraternity" to reach a peaceful solution through dialogue.

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