Armenia-Azerbaijan clashes rage

Armenia-Azerbaijan clashes rage

STEPANAKERT- Agence France-Presse
Armenia-Azerbaijan clashes rage

Armenian and Azerbaijani forces have intensified their shelling.

The West and Moscow renewed calls to halt several days of fighting over the disputed Nagorny Karabakh region that has left more than 130 dead and threatened to draw in regional powers Turkey and Russia.

In a joint appeal on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin, U.S. President Donald Trump and Macron urged the two sides to return to negotiations aimed at resolving their longstanding territorial dispute.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani leader Ilham Aliyev have both rejected the idea of holding talks, with the Armenian leader stating: "The people who live there face an existential threat."

But Russia suggested it was making progress in diplomatic efforts with Turkey, a firm supporter of Azerbaijan in the conflict.

The rival Caucasus nations have been locked in a bitter stalemate over the occupied Karabakh since the collapse of the Soviet Union when the ethnic Armenian region broke away from Azerbaijan.

In the fiercest clashes in years, 136 people have been confirmed dead in fighting that has raged for five days.

The Armenian defense ministry said fighting had intensified and its troops had repelled Azerbaijani attacks, downing helicopters and destroying drones and armored vehicles.

Azerbaijan’s defense ministry said its forces had carried out "crushing artillery strikes" on Armenian troops. It denied claims that one of its helicopters was shot down and had crashed in Iran.

The two sides have accused each other of shelling civilian areas and ignored repeated calls from international leaders to halt the fighting.

Putin, Macron and Trump called for an "immediate cessation of hostilities" and urged the warring sides to commit to talks.