Azerbaijan's Defence Ministry said a missile fired by Armenian forces hit an area near Orduba, in Azerbaijan's Nakhchivan region, on Thursday.

An armed villager inspects the grounds of a neighbour's home destroyed by shelling following an overnight attack during the ongoing fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan over occupied Karabakh, in the Martakert region on October 15, 2020.
An armed villager inspects the grounds of a neighbour's home destroyed by shelling following an overnight attack during the ongoing fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan over occupied Karabakh, in the Martakert region on October 15, 2020. (AFP)

Azerbaijani authorities have accused Armenia of expanding the conflict over occupied Karabakh by shelling a different region in Azerbaijan, a claim rejected by Armenian officials.

The mutual accusations come amid intense fighting that has raged for nearly three weeks despite a Russian attempt to broker a truce, marking the largest escalation of hostilities between the South Caucasus neighbours in more than a quarter-century.

Azerbaijan's Defence Ministry said a missile fired by Armenian forces hit the area near Orduba, in Azerbaijan's Nakhchivan region, on Thursday, causing no casualties.

Armenian Defence Ministry spokesperson Shushan Stepanian dismissed the Azerbaijani statement, saying that no missiles were fired at the Nakhchivan region.

Turkey condemned the attack on Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The statement noted that the attack on the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic – which also borders Turkey – is the “new and dangerous example” of Armenia’s efforts to spread clashes beyond the Azerbaijani lands under its occupation.

Nagorno-Karabakh lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a war there ended in 1994. The latest outburst of fighting began on September 27 and has involved heavy artillery, rockets and drones, killing hundreds.

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Humanitarian disaster

Armenia and Azerbaijan have accused each other of launching attacks, and each said it had the upper hand.

Azerbaijan's Defence Ministry said Karabakh forces had been forced to retreat and Azerbaijani forces retained the advantage along the line of contact that divides the sides.

In contrast, the Armenian Defence Ministry official Artsrun Hovhannisyan said Azerbaijan forces had been repelled and had suffered significant losses.

The latest fighting risks creating a humanitarian disaster in the worst outbreak of violence in the South Caucasus since Armenia and Azerbaijan went to war over the enclave in the 1990s.

Azerbaijan does not disclose military casualties but the prosecutor general's office said 47 civilians had been killed and 222 wounded.

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Buckled ceasefire deal

Russia, which has a security pact with Armenia but also has cultivated warm ties with Azerbaijan, hosted top diplomats from Armenia and Azerbaijan for more than 10 hours of talks that ended with Saturday’s ceasefire deal. But the agreement immediately buckled, with both sides blaming each other for breaching it.

The Kremlin said that Russian President Vladimir Putin chaired a meeting of his Security Council on Friday to discuss the conflict among other issues.

Azerbaijan says it has the right to reclaim its land by force after efforts by the so-called Minsk group of international mediators that comprises Russia, the United States and France failed to yield any progress. It has actively pushed for its ally Turkey to take a prominent role in future peace talks.

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Source: AP