Mortar Shells from Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict Hit Northeastern Iran

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Three mortal shells fired during the ongoing conflict in the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh have hit a village in northwestern Iranian province of East Azarbaijan, but no casualties or damages have been reported, an Iranian official said.

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Deputy Governor-General of East Azarbaijan Province for Political and Security Affairs Saeed Shabestari Khiabani said on Sunday that the shells hit a place near Khoda-Afarin village on Saturday evening.

“Fortunately, other than incurring brief damage to a high-voltage electricity poles, which led to a power cut in the region, the incident caused no damages or casualties,” he said.

He also noted that, following the incident, a meeting was requested by the Iranian provincial border guard to be held with officials from the two belligerent countries.

“During the meeting, the two sides of the conflict were seriously and officially warned by the Islamic Republic’s border guard, and promised that the incident would not be repeated,” he said, adding that Iran calls on both sides to show self-restraint.

“Currently,  there is full security in the province’s borders, and the (Iranian) armed forces and border guards are prepared to respond to any aggression on our country’s territory,” Shabestari Khiabani added.

At least 30 soldiers were killed in fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, officials of both countries said, each blaming the other for violence.

Azerbaijan said in a statement late on Saturday that Armenian forces had killed 12 of its soldiers and shot down a helicopter in the fighting, which broke out overnight.

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian said that 18 of his country's soldiers had been killed and 35 wounded, not specifying if the soldiers belonged to Yerevan-backed separatist forces in Karabakh or Armenia's armed forces.

Nagorno-Karabakh has been under the control of the Armenian military and separatists since a war between Armenia and Azerbaijan ended in 1994. Years of negotiations have brought little progress in resolving the dispute, though a fragile truce has been in place.

The fresh fighting was the worst since 1994, David Babayan, a spokesman for the region's separatist president, said.

The Azerbaijan Republic's Defense Ministry had announced in a Saturday statement that Armenian troops opened fire 127 times along the border over a 24-hour period using mortars and heavy artillery shells that struck civilian regions.

In the most recent development, Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry said on Sunday it is ceasing fire unilaterally against the separatist region.

It said in a statement Sunday that, in response to pleas from international organizations, it will be unilaterally “suspending a counter-offensive and response on the territories occupied by Armenia.”

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