Yerevan, Armenia – Heavy fighting continued among Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenian and Azerbaijan forces Saturday in the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian region in Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said late Saturday that his forces “raised the flag” over the strategic town of Madagiz and had taken several villages.
The Armenian Defense Ministry said separatist forces in Karabakh had fended off a large Azerbaijani attack, and spokesperson Shushan Stepanian pointed to intense fighting “along the entire front line” and said Armenian forces had shot down three Azerbaijani planes.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry denied any planes were shot down and said Armenian personnel had shelled civilian territory.
Azerbaijan has not offered details on military casualties, although authorities said 19 civilians were killed and 55 wounded.
Nagorno-Karabakh said Azeri forces had again launched rockets toward its capital city, Stepanakert, a week after the opposing sides began pounding each other with tanks and missiles.
Aliyev has demanded the withdrawal of Armenia from Nagorno-Karabakh as the only way to end the fighting.
Meanwhile, Nagorno-Karabakh authorities have called on the international community to “recognize the independence” of Nagorno-Karabakh as “the only effective mechanism to restore peace.”
Armenian and Azerbaijani forces seemingly ignored calls this week by the U.S., France and Russia for an immediate cease-fire in Nagorno-Karabakh, where fighting has escalated in recent days to levels not seen since the 1990s.
Armenian separatists seized Nagorno-Karabakh, formerly an autonomous territory within Azerbaijan, in a bloody war in the 1990s that killed an estimated 30,000 people.
Talks to resolve the conflict have been halted since a 1994 cease-fire agreement among Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh.
Peace efforts in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, mediated by the Minsk Group, comprised of the United States, France and Russia, collapsed in 2010.