June 27, 2015 / 2:46 PM / 4 years ago

Armenia says soldier killed in border clash with Azerbaijan

YEREVAN/BAKU, June 27 (Reuters) - Armenia said one of its soldiers died in clashes with troops from neighbouring Azerbaijan late on Friday, as a territorial dispute ground on between the former Soviet republics.

Azerbaijan did not comment on the report of the violence - but dismissed Armenian allegations that it had started any fighting or lost a significant number of its own men.

Sporadic clashes between the two have thwarted international efforts to end the dispute that broke out in the dying years of the Soviet Union and has killed about 30,000 people.

“The Azeri side has again provoked tension at the border,” Armenia’s defence ministry spokesman, Artsrun Hovhannisyan, said in a statement posted on Facebook.

“Information ... that Azeri side has allegedly violated a ceasefire agreement and there have been losses among Azeri servicemen is disinformation,” an Azeri defence ministry spokesman said.

“This step is an attempt to drag public’s attention in Armenia from social problems,” he added.

Thousands of Armenians staged a sixth day of demonstrations in the capital Yerevan on Saturday against a hike in electricity prices.

Clashes along the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan and around Nagorno-Karabakh, which lies inside Azerbaijan but is controlled by its majority ethnic Armenians, have stoked fears of a wider conflict breaking out in the South Caucasus, which is crossed by oil and gas pipelines.

Nagorno-Karabakh has run its own affairs with heavy military and financial backing from Armenia since the war. Armenian-backed forces also hold seven Azeri districts surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh.

Efforts to reach a permanent settlement have failed, despite mediation led by France, Russia and the United States.

Oil-producing Azerbaijan, host to global majors including BP , Chevron and ExxonMobil, frequently threatens to take the mountain region back by force, and is spending heavily on its armed forces.

Armenia, an ally of Russia, says it would not stand by if Nagorno-Karabakh were attacked. (Reporting by Hasmik Mkrtchyan in Yerevan and Nailia Bagirova in Baku; Writing by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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