At least 39 killed as Nagorno-Karabakh fighting enters second day


Armenian separatists in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh said on Monday that 15 more of its fighters have been killed in a flare-up of a territorial dispute, bringing the total death toll to 39 as the fighting entered a second day.

World leaders have urged a halt to the fighting between Azerbaijan and the Armenian rebels after clashes erupted on Sunday, raising the spectre of an all-out conflict that could draw in regional powers Russia and Turkey.

Ex-Soviet Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked since the early 1990s in a territorial dispute over the Armenia-backed secessionist enclave, with deadly fighting flaring up earlier this year and in 2016.

The defence ministry in Karabakh announced a total military death toll of 32 on Monday. Seven civilian fatalities were reported earlier including an Azerbaijani family of five and one woman and a child on the Armenian side.

The Armenian defence ministry said heavy fighting continued overnight and on Monday morning along the frontline and claimed it had won back positions taken Sunday by Azerbaijani forces.

But Baku claimed further advances. Azerbaijani forces "are striking enemy positions using rocket-artillery and aviation... and have taken several strategic positions around the village of Talysh," the defence ministry said. "The enemy is retreating," it added.

France, Germany, Italy, the United States, the European Union and Russia have urged a ceasefire.

Armenia and Karabakh declared martial law and military mobilisation Sunday, while Azerbaijan imposed military rule and a curfew in large cities.

Ethnic Armenian separatists seized the Nagorno-Karabakh region from Baku in a 1990s war that claimed 30,000 lives. Talks to resolve one of the worst conflicts to emerge from the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union have been largely stalled since a 1994 ceasefire agreement.

France, Russia and the United States have mediated peace efforts as the "Minsk Group" but the last big push for a peace deal collapsed in 2010.

On Monday, Armenia's ambassador to Russia said that Turkey had sent around 4,000 fighters from northern Syria to Azerbaijan amid fighting over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, the Interfax news agency reported. Turkey is a close ally of Azerbaijan.  (AFP and Reuters)

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