* Clashes highlight risk of wider conflict in Caucasus
* Azeri, Armenian presidents to meet in Sochi soon
* OSCE says concerned by escalation of conflict
By Hasmik Mkrtchyan and Nailia Bagirova
YEREVAN/BAKU, Aug 4 Azerbaijan and Armenia
accused each other on Monday of stoking tensions over the
breakaway enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh inside Azerbaijan after a
recurrence of fighting last week, although Yerevan said there
was no immediate threat of war.
The clashes on the Azeri enclave's fringes, in which at
least 15 combatants were killed, highlighted the risk of broader
conflict in the South Caucasus area where vital oil and natural
gas flow from the Caspian region to Europe.
Energy-producing Azerbaijan, host to oil majors including BP
, Chevron and ExxonMobil, frequently
threatens to take Nagorno-Karabakh back by force and is spending
heavily on its armed forces.
"The situation at the front line remains tense ... But
analyses of the recent days shows that in a global context there
are no grounds today for a large-scale war," Armenian Defence
Minister Seyran Ohanyan told journalists.
He accused Azerbaijan of responsibility for the hostilities
over Nagorno-Karabakh, a majority ethnic Armenian enclave.
"The whole responsibility for escalation of the situation
and human losses is on official Baku, which is the initiator of
the tension on the front line," Ohanyan said in Yerevan.
For its part, Azerbaijan accused Armenia of escalating the
more than 20-year-old conflict and then pinning blame on Baku.
"Armenians accuse Azeri armed forces of sending sabotage
groups into the Armenian army. It does not correspond with any
logic," Novruz Mamedov, deputy head of Baku's presidential
administration, told journalists in Baku.
Both sides said there were more skirmishes overnight, but
The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, both former Soviet
republics, are expected to meet in the Russian Caucasus city of
Sochi later this week to discuss ways to resolve the conflict.
Fighting over Nagorno Karabakh first erupted in 1991, when
the Soviet Union broke up, and a ceasefire was called in 1994.
But Azerbaijan and Armenia have regularly traded accusations of
further violence around Nagorno-Karabakh and along the
Nagorno-Karabakh has run its own affairs with heavy military
and financial backing from Armenia since the war that killed
about 30,000 people two decades ago. Armenian-backed forces also
seized seven Azeri districts surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh.
Efforts to reach a permanent settlement have failed despite
mediation led by France, Russia and the United States.
"Recent reports of multiple incidents along the front lines
are cause for concern," Andrzej Kasprzyk, a senior envoy for the
Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the
continent's main rights watchdog, said in a statement.
"In line with my mandate, I will continue liaising closely
with the sides, including at the highest levels, with a view to
assist them in de-escalating the situation."
(Writing by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Mark Heinrich)