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Fighting flares up between Armenia, Azerbaijan in disputed area

Fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan erupted on Sunday in the conflicted region of Nagorno-Karabakh and the Armenian Defense Ministry said two Azerbaijani helicopters were shot down.

Ministry spokeswoman Shushan Stepanyan also said Armenian forces hit three Azerbaijani tanks. There was no immediate word on casualties.

Nagorno-Karabakh is an ethnic Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan that has been out of Azerbaijan’s control since the end of a war in 1994. The two sides have heavy military presence along a demilitarized zone separating the region from the rest of Azerbaijan.

Meanwhile, the defense ministry of Azerbaijan denied the claim that its helicopters and tanks had been shot.

Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev  in his televised address to the nation said “there are losses among the Azerbaijani forces and the civilian population as a result of the Armenian bombardment.”

Stepanyan said the fighting Sunday began with an Azerbaijani attack, but Azerbaijan said the Armenian side attacked and that Azerbaijan launched a counteroffensive.

The news was harshly received in Turkey, a close ally of Azerbaijan.

Turkey’s ruling party spokesman Omer Celik tweeted: “We vehemently condemn Armenia’s attack on Azerbaijan. Armenia has once against committed a provocation, ignoring law.” He promised Turkey would stand by Azerbaijan and said, “Armenia is playing with fire and endangering regional peace.”

Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin also took to Twitter to condemn Armenia. “We strongly condemn Armenia’s attack on Azerbaijan. Armenia has once again violated international law and shown that it has no interest in peace and stability. Turkey stands in full solidarity with Azerbaijan and unreservedly supports its right to self-defense.”

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