Clashes resume on volatile Armenian-Azerbaijani border

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Relatives and friends mourn at the coffin with the body of Major Garush Hambardzumyan, who was killed during a fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia forces at the ceremony at Yerevan's Yerablur military pantheon, in Yerevan, Armenia, Thursday, July 16, 2020. Clashes resumed between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces on the South Caucasus nations' shared border Thursday morning, with both sides blaming each other for attacks that continue the worst outbreak of hostilities in years. (Karo Sahakyan/PAN Photo via AP)

YEREVAN – Fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces flared up again Thursday on the South Caucasus nations' shared border, with both sides blaming the other for the attacks that extended the worst outbreak of hostilities between the two countries in years.

In a statement that reflected the potential for the conflict's escalation, Azerbaijan warned it could strike Armenia's nuclear power plant if the Armenian forces launched an attack on a strategic water reservoir in Azerbaijan.

“The Armenian side mustn't forget that the state-of-the-art missile systems our army has are capable of launching a precision strike on the Metsamor nuclear power plant, and that would be a huge tragedy for Armenia,” Azerbaijani Defense Ministry spokesman Vagif Dargyakhly said in a statement.

The Soviet-built nuclear power plant is located close to Armenia's border with Turkey, a close ally of Azerbaijan.

Armenian military spokesman Artsrun Hovhannisyan said Armenia had brought the Azerbaijani statement to the attention of its international partners and expects them to strongly condemn it. He noted that Armenian officials have never made threats to strike civilian facilities in Azerbaijan.

Armenia's Foreign Ministry denounced the Azerbaijani threat as “genocidal.”

The two neighbors have been locked in conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a region of Azerbaijan that has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a war there ended in 1994. International efforts to settle the conflict have stalled, and clashes have been frequent.

The latest outbreak of fighting in the northern section of the border began Sunday and so far has left at least 17 people dead. Azerbaijan said it lost 12 service members and one civilian, and Armenia said four of its troops were killed and 20 others were wounded.