Two ex-Soviet states, Armenia and Azerbaijan, came to blows over the disputed region of Nagorno Karabakh. Each side claims that the other started the fighting and have released conflicting death tolls.
Armenia and Azerbaijan on Wednesday claimed conflicting casualty figures a day after fighting between forces from the two ex-Soviet neighbours near the disputed region of Nagorny Karabakh.
Azerbaijan's defence ministry said that four of its soldiers and 12 Armenian soldiers were killed in Tuesday's clashes.
Armenia's armed forces said it lost no soldiers, but eight Azerbaijanis died.
Each side claimed the other started the fighting.
Tuesday's clashes began when Armenian forces opened fire on Azerbaijani positions along the Nagorny Karabakh ceasefire line, Azerbaijani defence ministry spokesman Eldar Sabiroglu said.
"It is disinformation," said Armenia's Senor Hasratian, a spokesman for the country's forces in Nagorny Karabakh, saying Azerbaijani forces had attacked first.
He said four of the Azerbaijani dead remain on the Armenian side and negotiations were ongoing for their return.
Russia's foreign ministry on Wednesday warned about the threat of pitched battles erupting after the skirmishes.
"The main thing is not to allow the situation to develop into large-scale combat and to expand to other points along the front line," the ministry said in a statement.
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe presidency called on both sides to "exercise maximum restraint".
"I urge the parties to avoid actions that could lead to further unnecessary loss of life," Finnish Foreign Minister Ilkka Kanerva said in a statement. Finland currently holds the OSCE presidency.
The two sides fought a war over the ethnic-Armenian dominated enclave in the early 1990s.
Armenian and Azerbaijani forces are spread across a ceasefire line in and around Nagorny Karabakh, often facing each other at close range, and shootings are common.
Baku on Wednesday described the latest clashes as an attempt by Yerevan to distract attention from internal civil strife in Armenia in recent days.
"The enemy is trying to distract the international community from the bloody events and the civil uprising in Armenia," defence ministry spokesman Sabiroglu said.
The Armenian capital is under a state of emergency after eight people were killed Saturday in street battles between riot police and opposition supporters protesting the result of a presidential election.
Armenian forces seized control of Nagorny Karabakh and seven surrounding regions from Azerbaijan in a war in the early 1990s that claimed an estimated 30,000 lives and forced about a million people on both sides to flee their homes.
Date created : 2008-03-06