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BAKU, January 4. /TASS/. Armenian troops have breached the ceasefire regime 31 times in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict area over the past 24 hours, using large-caliber machine-guns, the Defense Ministry of Azerbaijan reported on Wednesday.
"The positions of the Azerbaijani army were shelled 31 times from the territory of Armenia, and also from the opposite positions located in Nagorno-Karabakh and the adjacent areas" controlled by the Armenian side, the ministry said.
The situation along the line of engagement of the conflicting parties in Nagorno-Karabakh deteriorated dramatically overnight to April 2. Following fierce armed clashes at the contact line, the parties to the conflict accused each other of violating truce.
On April 5, Russia mediated a meeting between Colonel-General Nadzhmeddin Sadykov, the chief of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces General Staff, and Colonel-General Yuri Khachaturov, the chief of the Armenian Armed Forces General Staff, that took place in Moscow. The sides agreed to cease the hostilities on the line disengaging the Azerbaijani and Armenian troops in Nagorno-Karabakh. The defense ministries of Azerbaijan and Armenia announced a ceasefire on the contact line as of 12:00 (11:00 Moscow Time) the same day. Ever since, the parties occasionally report brief exchanges of fire along the contact line.
In a trilateral statement adopted on June 20 following a summit of the Russian, Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents in St. Petersburg, the sides confirmed their commitment to the normalization of the situation along the engagement line in Nagorno-Karabakh.
An armed incident on the border of Azerbaijan and Armenia on December 29 claimed victims from both sides.
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
The highland region of Nagorno-Karabakh (Mountainous Karabakh) is a mostly Armenian-populated enclave inside the sovereign territory of Azerbaijan. It was the first zone of inter-ethnic tensions and violence to appear on the map of the former USSR.
Even a quarter of a century after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Karabakh remains a so-called 'frozen conflict' on the post-Soviet space, as the region is the subject of a dispute between Azerbaijan and the local Armenian population that draws on strong support from fellow-countrymen in neighboring Armenia.
In 1988, hostilities broke out there between the forces reporting to the government in Baku and Armenian residents, which resulted in the region's de facto independence. In 1994 a ceasefire was reached but the relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia remain strained ever since then.
Russia, France and the U.S. co-chair the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which attempts to broker an end to hostilities and the conflict.