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5 Mar, 2008 08:17

Violence escalates in Nagorno-Karabakh

A shootout has taken place between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces in the north-west of the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. While Armenia accuses Azerbaijan of breaking the truce, the latter says the real reason is an attempt by Yerevan to deflect at

There have been conflicting reports as to the number of casualties on both sides. Azerbaijan says twelve Armenian and four Azeri soldiers were killed, whereas Armenia claims eight Azeris have died.

Armenia accuses Azerbaijan of breaking the truce and making a serious incursion into Yerevan-controlled area, something Azerbaijan has denied this.

Armenia is now experiencing a moment of weakness. The state of emergency was declared in the capital Yerevan following violent clashes between police and demonstrators on Saturday, which left 8 people dead.

Armenia, for its part, says Azerbaijan tries to take advantage of the instability in Armenia to return Nagorno-Karabakh.

Armenian President has held a press conference and said that the situation is back to normal and he hopes the crisis could be resolved by diplomatic means.

Background of the conflict

Nagorno-Karabakh has been a bone of contention between the two countries for almost 20 years.

The region is part of Azerbaijan mainly populated by Armenians. The conflict escalated into a war in the early 1990s when the area attempted to join Armenia.

Following the war a shaky truce was agreed in 1994 but the area has remained volatile. Shootouts on the ceasefire line claim around 40 casualties a year on both sides.

Several days ago Azeri president Heydar Aliyev said his country is prepared to use force if Nagorno-Karabakh is not returned.