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BAKU, November 13. /TASS/. Azerbaijan has banned flights above Nagorno-Karabakh after a military helicopter was shot down in the conflict zone, the country’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.
“Azerbaijan announces that the airspace above the occupied territories is closed for flights and in line with the established procedures has informed all the members of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) of this,” the statement says.
Armenia’s Defense Ministry said on Wednesday Azerbaijan’s troops downed a MI-24 helicopter of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic's Air Force. Nagorno-Karabakh is a majority Armenian region within Azerbaijan that is de facto independent.
The incident occurred “in the airspace above the eastern part of the border between Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh” when the helicopter was conducting a training flight, the ministry said. According to unofficial data, three pilots died in the crash.
Azerbaijan’s servicemen claim that the helicopter had attacked their positions and was destroyed by return fire.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Minsk Group for peace settlement of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, which includes representatives of Russia, France and the US, has called on Azerbaijan and Armenia to take urgent steps to prevent the escalation of tensions in the region.
The struggle over Nagorno-Karabakh escalated after both Armenia and Azerbaijan obtained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. By the end of 1993, the conflict had caused thousands of casualties and created hundreds of thousands of refugees on both sides. An unofficial ceasefire was reached on May 12, 1994.
Since then, Armenia and Azerbaijan have been holding negotiations mediated by the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) Minsk Group on the region's disputed status.