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Dozens Killed by Fighting in Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh Region

BAKU, Azerbaijan — Three Azeri servicemen were killed in fresh fighting with Armenian-backed rebels over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region on Monday, Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry said.

Dozens were killed over the weekend in the biggest flare-up of violence over the separatist region since the end of a full-scale war in 1994.

Each side blamed the other for Saturday's escalation. The Associated Press reported that a boy and a total at least 30 troops form both sides had been killed before Azerbaijan announced a unilateral cease-fire Sunday.

Image: Map showing Nagorno-Karabakh
The Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. Google Maps

Nagorno-Karabakh, which lies inside Azerbaijan but is controlled by ethnic Armenians, has run its own affairs with heavy military and financial backing from Armenia since a separatist war ended in 1994 with no resolution of the region's status.

The conflict is fueled by long-simmering tensions between Christian Armenians and mostly Muslim Azeris.

The heavily-militarized contact line that separated Azeri and separatist forces had for years remained largely static, though there were intermittent exchanges of gunfire and occasional casualties.

However, at the weekend there was a dramatic escalation, with tanks, missile systems, artillery, and helicopters being used. Azerbaijan said it had seized two separatist-held villages from which it said it had been taking fire, though the separatists disputed that account.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed Sunday to back its ally Azerbaijan in the conflict, saying that the flare-up could have been avoided if "fair and decisive steps" had been taken.

"We pray our Azerbaijani brothers will prevail in these clashes with the least casualties," he said.