Azerbaijani troops kill Armenian soldier
Azerbaijani troops have killed an Armenian soldier in the latest border clash between the arch-foes, Armenia said Thursday, highlighting the risk of a fresh flare-up in a protracted conflict.
Armenia is locked in a decades-long conflict with Azerbaijan over the breakaway region of Nagorny Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan.
"As a result of shelling by Azerbaijani army, a serviceman of the Armenian armed forces was killed overnight," the Armenian defence ministry spokesman, Artsrun Hovhannisyan, told reporters.
The 40-year-old soldier died in clashes at the north-eastern sector of Azerbaijani-Armenian border, he said.
Hovhannisyan accused Azerbaijan of multiple ceasefire violations over the last several days, including with the use of large-calibre artillery.
"Last night, Azerbaijan shelled 20 Armenian villages and only stopped shelling after Armenian forces returned fire," he said.
"Two Armenian soldiers and two civilians were wounded."
The surge in the violence coincided with military drills launched by the Armenian military.
Speaking to journalists on Wednesday, Armenia's foreign ministry spokesman, Tigran Balayan, accused Azerbaijan of deliberately escalating tensions on the shared border in an "attempt to thwart Karabakh peace talks."
Ethnic Armenian separatists backed by Yerevan seized control of the territory during a 1990s war that left some 30,000 dead.
Despite years of negotiations, the two countries have not signed a final peace deal to cement a tenuous 1994 ceasefire.
The two sides regularly exchange fire across the frontline but last year saw clashes hit a new high.
Energy-rich Azerbaijan, whose military spending exceeds Armenia's entire state budget, has threatened to take back the region by force if negotiations fail to yield results.
Armenia -- backed by Russia which sells weapons both to Baku and Yerevan -- says it could crush any offensive.
© 2015 AFP