Armenian Soldier Dies as Clashes Escalate Along Azeri Border

  • Seven killed in attacks by mortar,atillery fire since Dec. 1
  • Both sides say cease-fire has been violated hundreds of times

An Armenian soldier was killed in an overnight clash with Azeri forces, the Defense Army of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region said Saturday on its website, as tensions escalate in the energy-rich region of the South Caucasus.

At least four Armenian troops and three Azeri soldiers have now died and several more have been wounded since Dec. 1 in confrontations that included mortar and artillery fire. The two sides accuse each other of hundreds of cease-fire violations. Nagorno-Karabakh reported Azeris broke the truce 120 times, and Azerbaijan said Armenia violated the cease-fire 84 times in the past 24 hours.

Resumption of large-scale hostilities would threaten energy infrastructure in Azerbaijan, the former Soviet Union’s third-biggest oil producer. Since 1994, it has attracted more than $50 billion in investment from London-based BP Plc and its partners.

The confrontation had it beginnings in the dying days of the Soviet Union two decades ago when a dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan flared into a war that killed 30,000 and turned 1 million residents into refugees.

Mediators led by the U.S., France and Russia have failed to bring peace since the truce. Armenia says the enclave’s Christian Armenians, who declared independence from largely Muslim Azerbaijan in 1991, have the right to self-determination. Azerbaijan demands respect for its territorial integrity.

The mountainous territory along Russia’s southern border stretches north from Nagorno-Karabakh through Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova.

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