BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — Skirmishes continued Friday around Nagorno-Karabakh with Azerbaijan and Armenia blaming each other for cease-fire violations, while Russia sought to stabilize the situation by playing as go-between.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev met with Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev in Baku a day after holding talks with the Armenian leadership.
Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry said Friday its troops returned fire after Armenian forces shelled Azerbaijani military positions and populated areas. The Armenian side accused Azerbaijan of shelling its positions, killing two Armenian soldiers overnight.
The gunbattles threaten to derail the Russia-brokered truce declared at midday Tuesday following several days of intense battles which marked the worst violence since a separatist war ended in 1994. The war left Nagorno-Karabakh, officially a part of Azerbaijan, under the control of local ethnic Armenian forces and the Armenian military. Armenian forces also occupy several areas outside the Karabakh region.
Azerbaijan has said 31 of its soldiers have been killed since Saturday while Armenia's Defense Ministry has acknowledged the loss of 44 troops. Several civilians have also been killed on both sides.
The conflicting parties reached a tentative agreement to evacuate bodies from the frontline on Friday.
Along with the United States and France, Russia has also acted as a mediator in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace talks which have dragged on since 1994 without any visible results.
Medvedev said during Friday's meeting with Aliyev that Russia values its relations with both Armenia and Azerbaijan and hoped that they could resume their negotiations under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
"Azerbaijan adheres to the talks process," Aliyev said. "Resolving the conflict is in the interests of Azerbaijan, Armenia and also Russia, as a neighbor and friend of both countries."
Avet Demourian in Yerevan, Armenia and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.