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Azerbaijan Says Five Killed In Fighting Near Karabakh

September 5, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Azerbaijani Defense Ministry spokesman Ilgar Verdiyev said that three Armenian and two Azerbaijani soldiers have been killed in fighting near the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Two firefights reportedly took place on September 4 in the Azerbaijani districts of Fizuli and Agdam, which are next to Nagorno-Karabakh and have been occupied by Armenian forces since 1993.

"That did happen. One of our soldiers was injured in Agdam district, the second one in Fizuli, when Armenian forces fired our positions on September 4," RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service quoted Verdiyev as saying.

"Then both of them died in the hospital," he added. "Osmanov Mukhtar, born in 1988, was injured in Agdam, Ismail Huseynov, born in 1988, in Fizuli. In both cases our forces fired back and Armenians lost two of their soldiers in Agdam, one in Fuzuli."

Officials in the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic have denied the reports.

Senor Hasratyan, a spokesman for the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Defense Ministry, told RFE/RL's Armenian Service that the "information about the shooting and victims does not correspond to reality."

OSCE Talks Continue

The reports of the shooting come one day after the U.S., Russian, and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group held separate talks with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov and Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian in Brussels. The Minsk Group is tasked with mediating a solution to the Karabakh conflict.

The mediators will visit Armenia and Azerbaijan early next week in an attempt to revitalize the Karabakh peace process.

Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave inside Azerbaijan, has a predominantly ethnic-Armenian population.

Armenian forces seized control of the enclave from Azerbaijan in a war in the early 1990s, which claimed an estimated 30,000 lives. A cease-fire was signed in 1994, but the two countries have failed to negotiate a settlement on the region's status.

Copyright (c) 2007. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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