Azerbaijan denies Armenian allegation of breaking ceasefire

YEREVAN/BAKU, March 6 (RIA Novosti, Gamlet Matevosyan, Gerai Dadashev) - The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry denied Monday that its troops had again violated the ceasefire in the conflict zone with Armenia.

The denial came in response to an allegation by an Armenian Defense Ministry official that Azerbaijani troops had again opened fire on Armenian positions.

Seyran Shakhsuvaryan said: "Over the weekend, Azerbaijan again violated the ceasefire regime several times on the line separating the Armenian and Azerbaijani forces. On March 4 at around 17:30 local time [1:30 p.m. GMT], shots were fired at Armenian military posts in the direction of Megrab. On the following day, March 5, the shooting continued - from 23:00 to 03:30 toward Vayk, and from 00:20 to 04:40 toward Idzhevan."

He said no Armenian soldiers were injured, and that they did not open fire in return.

Shakhsuvaryan said Azerbaijani troops had violated the ceasefire almost every day for the past ten days.

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry has denied the latest allegations.

Ministry official Ilgar Verdiyev said, "We are rigorously observing the ceasefire regime, opening fire only as a retaliatory measure to suppress gunfire from the Armenian side."

"The false information from the Armenian side appears to be open propaganda aimed at portraying Azerbaijan as incapable of meeting its obligations," Verdiyev said.

The conflict between the former Soviet republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorny Karabakh, an Azerbaijani region with a largely Armenian population, first erupted in 1988, when the region claimed independence from Azerbaijan to join Armenia.

Over 30,000 people were reported dead on both sides between 1988 and 1994, and over 100 others died after a ceasefire was concluded in 1994, leaving Nagorno-Karabakh in Armenian hands, but tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia have persisted.

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