Azerbaijani soldier killed by Armenian forces

Azerbaijani soldier killed by Armenian forces

Friday, January 28, 2005

FOREIGN

BAKU – The Associated Press

  An Azerbaijani soldier was killed on the cease-fire line separating
government troops from ethnic Armenian forces controlling the Nagorno-Karabakh
enclave and a swath of surrounding territory in the ex-Soviet republic, the Defense
Ministry said on Thursday.

  The military chief in the disputed enclave, meanwhile, said strengthened
defenses on the cease-fire line mean that any Azerbaijani attempt to take back
the territory will be thwarted and could prompt “successful counterattacks.”

  The latest death on the dividing line and the bellicose warning added to
tension that persists more than a decade after a 1994 cease-fire ended a
six-year war over Nagorno-Karabakh that killed 30,000 people and drove a million from
their homes.

  Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said ethnic Armenian forces opened fire near
the village of Shurabad shortly before midnight Wednesday, killing an
Azerbaijani soldier.

  Gunfire sporadically breaks out between the opposing forces, and the
dispute has raised fears of renewed war. International efforts have failed to
produce a settlement between Azerbaijan and Armenia, which supports
Nagorno-Karabakh’s internationally unrecognized government.

  Also Wednesday, Nagorno-Karabakh defense chief Seiran Oganian said that
“large volume of construction work” done on the front line over the past year
would enable ethnic Armenian forces to “freely conduct trench fighting in the
case military action begins, turning aside all attempts by the enemy to move
forward.”

  “We are prepared … not just to defend ourselves but to conduct successful
counterstrikes,” Oganian said.

  Ethnic Armenian forces also control a large amount of adjacent territory,
including land that links the enclave with Armenia. Disputes over the
additional territory have been one of the factors preventing Armenia and Azerbaijan
from settling the conflict.

  International monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation
in Europe, which has been seeking to foster a settlement between Armenia and
Azerbaijan for a decade, are due to tour the ethnic Armenian-held territory in
the coming days.

  Oganian, who spoke at a news conference, said that Nagorno-Karabakh
authorities “cannot prohibit our citizens to farm in these territories.”

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