Four Azerbaijani soldiers were killed in a deadly clash on the borders of Armenia and Azerbaijan on Monday, in a latest escalation to a decades-long dispute over territories between the two countries. Azerbaijan's army has claimed to have destroyed an Armenian fortification and artillery in the clash. Armenia hasn't reported any casualties on its side.
The two South Caucasus neighbors have been locked in conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan since the 1990s. However, the recent clash was at Tavush, an area north of that territory. The territorial conflict between the two countries has often seen casualties on either sides, and even international efforts have failed to solve the crisis.
Yet Again a Heated Clash
Azerbaijan's Ministry of Defence said that three soldiers died on Sunday night, while one was killed on Monday in the artillery fire that erupted near Tavus region, 300 km from the mountainous enclave. The firing also injured two Armenian and five Azerbaijani soldiers. The clash broke out on Sunday night and Azerbaijani soldiers reportedly resumed shelling on Monday morning to safeguard their regions.
It is still unknown which side instigated the fight. Armenia, however, has blamed Azerbaijan for using artillery attack in a bid to "capturing Armenian positions." Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev at an emergency press conference said: "Armenia's political and military leadership will bear the entire responsibility for the provocation."
A Decades-Long Dispute
The attack comes just a week after Aliyev said that peace talks with Armenia to settle the long-standing dispute between the two countries had stalled. Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a region in Azerbaijan, which has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since the end of a war there in 1994.
Although a ceasefire was agreed upon at that time, the two former Soviet republics have time and again engaged in conflicts around Nagorno-Karabakh and along the separate Azeri-Armenian frontier. In 2016, the two neighbors engaged in a four-day long deadly conflict that killed scores of soldiers on either side.
The border dispute between the Armenia and Azerbaijan has seen both countries winning support from their other neighbors. The recent clash saw Turkey, which shares close ethnic ties with Azerbaijan, once again voicing strong support for Baku. "What Armenia did is unacceptable. It must get back to its senses," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in an interview to a television channel.
Russia also showed serious concern over the recent cross-border conflict. Russia has maintained close ties with both Armenia and Azerbaijan ever since the split of the Soviet Union. That said, the frequency of conflicts have only increased over the years.
The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has also long been trying to mediate a settlement. However, despite international efforts to mediate between the countries peace couldn't be reached over the years.