Azerbaijani soldier killed in shootout with Armenian forces

Narek Aleksanyan/AFP via Getty Images

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SULAIMANI — An Azerbaijani soldier died and three Armenian troops were wounded Friday (July 23) in the latest incident between the countries since their war over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region last year.

The six-week war last autumn claimed some 6,500 lives and ended in November with a Russian-brokered ceasefire under which Yerevan ceded territories it had controlled for decades.

Both Baku and Yerevan have reported occasional shootouts in recent months along their shared border, sparking fears of a flare up in the territorial dispute.

"On July 23 (Friday), at approximately 16:00 (1200 GMT), Armenian armed forces opened fire at Azerbaijani army positions at the Kelbajar sector of the Armenian-Azerbaijani state border," Baku's defence ministry said in a statement.

"An Azerbaijani army serviceman was killed by the enemy's sniper."

Armenia blamed Azerbaijani military for initiating the incident, with its defence ministry saying "three Armenian servicemen were wounded in the intense shootout."

Tensions between Baku and Yerevan have been running high since May, when Armenia accused Azerbaijan's military of crossing its southern frontier to "lay siege" to a lake shared by the two countries.

"This is our ancestors' land, we are on our land," Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev told the AzTV network on Thursday, referring to the territory which Yerevan considers as part of its Syunik district.

In May, Aliyev said Baku was ready for peace talks with Armenia.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced later the two ex-Soviet nations were holding discussions on the delimitation and demarcation of their shared borders.

Ethnic Armenian separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan as the Soviet Union collapsed, and the ensuing conflict has claimed around 30,000 lives.

(NRT Digital Media/AFP)