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Azerbaijan, Armenia agree to ceasefire

dpadpa 4/04/2016

Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed to an immediate ceasefire after clashes that Baku says has killed 170 soldiers.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed to an immediate ceasefire after a recent surge of fighting in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, the TASS news agency reports, citing Armenia's defence ministry.

"Operations along the line of contact between the Azerbaijani and Armenian forces have been suspended from noon local time (1900 AEST) on April 5 upon the agreement of the parties," the Armenian ministry was quoted as saying on Tuesday.

Azerbaijan's defence ministry confirmed to the Interfax news agency that a ceasefire deal had been reached.

The two former Soviet republics have fought for decades over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, populated primarily by Armenian Christians but recognised by the United Nations as part of predominantly Muslim Azerbaijan.

The countries have traded blame for sudden violence that reportedly erupted on Friday night. The fighting has been the most severe since a ceasefire was agreed in 1994.

Azerbaijan's defence ministry said in a statement on its website on Monday that 170 soldiers had died in the recent clashes.

A contact group of Russian, US and French diplomats was set to meet in Vienna on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the sudden violence.

The group was also scheduled to attend a meeting of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe that was convened in reaction to the flare-up.

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan told OSCE representatives on Monday that the conflict has the potential to devolve into an all-out war.

Sargsyan was scheduled to visit German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday for talks expected to focus on the heightened regional tensions.

According to Armenia's defence ministry, Azerbaijani troops started the fighting with an offensive involving tanks and artillery, to which Armenian forces responded by shooting down a combat helicopter and destroying several tanks and drones.

Azerbaijan denied the allegations, saying its soldiers were reacting to heavy attacks from the Armenian side.

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