At least three Azerbaijani soldiers were reportedly killed and several others wounded in heavy fighting that broke out at a section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border on Sunday.
The spokeswoman for Armenia’s Defense Ministry, Shushan Stepanian, said Azerbaijani forces shelled an Armenian army outpost in the northern Tavush province during a failed attempt to seize it. Stepanian said they suffered casualties while being repelled by Armenian soldiers stationed there.
“There are no casualties on the Armenian side,” she wrote on Facebook.
According to Stepanian, earlier in the afternoon a military vehicle carrying Azerbaijani soldiers tried to cross into Tavush “for reasons unclear to us.” The soldiers fled and left the vehicle behind after warning shots fired from the Armenian side, said the official.
For its part, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said that Armenian forces backed by artillery fire attacked its border posts in Azerbaijan’s western Tovuz district bordering Tavush. It said two Azerbaijani servicemen died and five others were wounded as a result.
The ministry reported a third Azerbaijani combat death later on Sunday.
The fighting reportedly continued into the early hours of Monday. The Defense Ministry in Yerevan said Azerbaijani troops are using a battle tank and mortars to continue shelling the same Armenian army post.
“Gunfire is periodically continuing with various intensity,” Stepanian, the ministry spokeswoman, said shortly after midnight. No Armenian soldier has been killed or wounded, she added.
The Azerbaijani military claimed, meanwhile, that Armenian forces are firing mortars on not only at Azerbaijani border positions but also a nearby Azerbaijani village.
Stepanian insisted in another overnight Facebook post that Armenian army units are targeting only Azerbaijani military facilities.
Each side blamed the other for the escalation. Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry accused Yerevan of heightening tensions in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone and seeking to “seize more territory.”
The Armenian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Anna Naghdalian, insisted that the fighting was sparked by the Azerbaijani “attempts to infiltrate into Armenian positions.”
Naghdalian also tweeted that Armenia’s foreign and defense ministers are “in constant contact” with the U.S., Russian and French mediators co-heading the OSCE Minsk Group over the latest escalation.
The mediators urged the conflicting parties to strengthen the ceasefire regime during a June 30 video conference with the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers. In a joint statement, they reiterated that “there is no military solution to the conflict.”
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev rejected that assertion and lambasted the Minsk Group co-chairs last week. He also threatened to pull out of “pointless negotiations” with Yerevan.
Both conflicting parties had reported deadly ceasefire violations in the same border area early this year. In March, the Armenian military claimed to have thwarted two incursions attempted by troops from Azerbaijan’s State Border Guard Service. No major incidents were reported there in the following months.