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Tensions Rise Again Between Armenia, Azerbaijan

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has expressed concern about an outbreak of violence near the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, in which three people died late Thursday.

Armenia says three civilians died in shelling and gunfire in villages near the border with Azerbaijan. Government officials said two others were wounded in the shelling and condemned the incident as an "act of provocation" by Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan did not answer the accusation directly but said earlier in the day that Azerbaijani villages near the border with Armenia had come under fire and Azeri forces retaliated.

The two former Soviet republics fought a war over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly Armenian region of Azerbaijan that is controlled by Armenian forces, in the late 1990s before arriving at a cease-fire. But relations remain tense, and the sides have never achieved a permanent peace agreement.

The OSCE said Friday it objects to the use of heavy artillery around civilian areas, saying it represents "an unacceptable escalation" of the conflict. It appealed to both sides "in the strongest possible terms" to avoid civilian casualties.

The foreign ministers of the two countries are expected to meet in the coming days on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.