BAKU, (AP/AFP) - Azerbaijan lashed out at Armenia Thursday for allowing presidential elections to go forward in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
The elections, scheduled for this Sunday, are a "crude violation" of international law and are being conducted "under conditions of continued occupation," Azerbaijan's foreign ministry said in a statement carried in official newspapers.
The Ministry said the elections were another example of Armenia's "aggression" and another attempt by Armenia to lend legitimacy to its "puppet regime" in Nagorno-Karabakh. The statement called on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, other countries and the people of Nagorno-Karabakh to reject the voting.
The Nagorno-Karabakh elections are due to take place three days before a scheduled meeting between Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliev. The leaders are due to meet Wednesday, in the Nakhichevan autonomous region of Azerbaijan, for their first face-to-face talks since November of last year.
Meanwhile, the Azeri defense ministry said Thursday that an officer in Azerbaijan's army has been killed by Armenian forces along the disputed border with Karabakh. The ministry named the dead officer as 24-year-old senior Lieutenant Kamal Babayev. It said he was fatally wounded Wednesday while on duty, and that the incident was provoked by the Armenian side.
Azerbaijani soldiers and Nagorno-Karabakh forces face off across the no-man's-land around the enclave and small shooting incidents break out sporadically. More than one million were left homeless and 30,000 killed as a result of the conflict.