28 more separatists killed in worst Karabakh fighting since 2016

Azerbaijani soldiers fire a mortar at the contact line of Nagorny Karabakh in clashes with rebel fighters yesterday. (AP pic)

YEREVAN: Twenty-eight separatist rebel fighters died in clashes with Azerbaijani troops on Monday, officials in Azerbaijan’s breakaway Nagorny Karabakh region said, bringing their military death toll to 59.

World leaders have urged a halt in fighting after the worst escalation since 2016 raised the spectre of a fresh war between the ex-Soviet rivals Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The two countries have been locked in a territorial dispute since the 1990s, when Karabakh declared its independence after a war that claimed 30,000 lives.

No country recognises Karabakh’s independence – not even Armenia – and it is still considered part of Azerbaijan by the international community.

“Twenty-eight servicemen died in action” on Monday, Karabakh’s defence ministry said in a statement on the second day of fighting.

The total death toll rose to 68 including nine civilian deaths: seven in Azerbaijan and two on the Armenian side.

Azerbaijan has not yet released information on military casualties since the latest fighting broke out.

Talks to resolve one of the worst conflicts to emerge from the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union largely stalled in 1994 when a ceasefire was agreed.

France, Russia and the US have mediated peace efforts as the “Minsk Group” but the last big push for a peace deal collapsed in 2010.