In the month of fighting, the city of Karabakh was hit’ by heavy shelling: officials

Separatist officials say Azerbaijan has launched the heaviest missile strike in a month of fighting on its largest Armenian city, Nagorno-Karabakh.


In the month of fighting, the city of Karabakh was hit’ by heavy shelling: officials

"Azerbaijan hit Stepanakert for several hours, dozens of missiles landed on the city," Karabakh rights ombudsman Artak Beglaryan told AFP.


"The strike injured civilians, the heaviest during the recent fighting," he said.


More than 130 civilians have been killed’ and thousands displaced in fresh clashes between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces that began last month over decades of conflict over control of the disputed territory.


Azerbaijan says Armenian missile strikes on the cities of Ganja and Barda earlier this week killed 26 civilians, including women and children.


Armenia has denied the attacks.


The Azerbaijani presidency said on Thursday that’ "under the initiative of (President) Ilham Aliyev, the Azerbaijani side handed over to Armenia the bodies of 30 soldiers killed in the fighting."


"Armenia has failed to show goodwill in this matter," but thanks to Russian mediation, it has been agreed to "open a humanitarian corridor" to remove the bodies of Azerbaijani soldiers from the battlefield.


Confirming the transfer, mediated by Russia and the Red Cross, Armenian Defense Ministry spokesperson Shushan Stephan added that the Armenian army was ready to return the bodies of slain Azerbaijani soldiers.


Both sides have accused each other of failing to honor three separate ceasefire agreements reached this month by Russia, France and the United States.


Moscow, Paris, and Washington are co-chairs of the Minsk Group of Arbitrators, which have failed to make lasting progress since the 1994 ceasefire.


The Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers, Zoharb Mnatsakanyan and Jeyhun Bayramov, were scheduled’ to meet with the Minsk Group co-chairs in Geneva on Thursday.


Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry said Bayramov had postponed the meeting until Friday and would not meet directly with his Armenian counterpart.


Nagorno-Karabakh seceded from Baku in a war in the 1990s that killed 30,000 people.


The mountainous province of Karabakh and seven Azerbaijani districts have since been controlled’ by Armenian separatists, but have been recognized internationally as part of Azerbaijan's autonomous region.


The latest outbreak, which began last month, has killed at least 1,252 people on both sides - the deadliest since 1994 ceasefire.


The death toll is thought’ to be much higher, with Russian President Vladimir Putin saying last week that about 5,000 to 5,000 people had been killed.


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