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U.N. chief urges 'maximum restraint' by Azerbaijan, Armenia after clashes

FILE PHOTO: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during a news conference after the Libya summit in Berlin, Germany, January 19, 2020. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt/Pool

NEW YORK (Reuters) - United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Azerbaijan and Armenia on Monday to exercise maximum restraint after border clashes between the long-feuding former Soviet republics.

“The secretary-general is following with deep concern the current tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia. He calls for maximum restraint, as a full conflict between these two countries would be disastrous,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

The neighbors have long been in conflict over Azerbaijan’s breakaway, mainly ethnic Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh. But the latest flare-ups are around the Tavush region in northeastern Armenia, some 300 km (190 miles) from the enclave.

Russia, which has a military base in Armenia, has urged the two sides to cease fire and show restraint. The Kremlin has said Moscow is ready to act as a mediator.

International concern is heightened because of the threat to stability in a region serving as a corridor for pipelines taking oil and gas from the Caspian Sea to global markets.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Jonathan Oatis