Azerbaijan says two of its servicemen killed in clashes with Armenian army

BAKU/YEREVAN (Reuters) - Two Azeri servicemen have been killed in border clashes with the Armenian army, Azerbaijan’s defense ministry said on Monday.

The Armenian defense ministry accused the Azeri side of triggering fresh confrontation along the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan and around Nagorno-Karabakh, which lies inside Azerbaijan but is controlled by majority ethnic Armenians.

Clashes between the two ex-Soviet nations and around separatist Nagorno-Karabakh have stoked fears of a wider conflict breaking out in the South Caucasus, which is crossed by oil and gas pipelines.

In an account that was disputed, Azerbaijan said an officer and a soldier were killed on Sunday when Armenian forces tried to cross the state border.

Armenia accused Azeri forces of attacking several villages near the border between the two countries, wounding one civilian at the weekend.

Sporadic clashes between the two have thwarted international efforts, led by France, Russia and the United States, to end the dispute, which broke out in the dying years of the Soviet Union and killed about 30,000 people.

Reporting by Nailia Bagirova and Hasmik Mkrtchyan; Writing by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Dmitry Solovyov/Ruth Pitchford