Armenian and Azerbaijani forces continued fighting Saturday for the seventh day over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, ignoring international calls for a cease-fire.   
 
Armenia says the territory’s capital, Stepanakert, was the target of bombing by Azeri forces.  
 
Authorities in the breakaway territory have warned that the “last battle” for the region has begun. They called on the international community Saturday to “recognize the independence” of Nagorno-Karabakh as “the only effective mechanism to restore peace.”
 
In a statement issued late Friday, the second this week, the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, Igor Popov of Russia, Stéphane Visconti of France, and Andrew Schofer of the United States, expressed their “alarm at reports of increasing civilian casualties” and strongly condemned the continued violence.  
 
“Targeting or threatening civilians is never acceptable under any circumstances,” the statement said, adding that “the co-chairs call on the sides to observe fully their international obligations to protect civilian populations.”
 
Armenia responded positively Friday to a call by the Minsk Group for a cease-fire between its forces and Azerbaijani forces, engaged in a conflict that is threatening to escalate into all-out war.Armenia is “ready to engage” with the OSCE Minsk Group “to reestablish a cease-fire regime based on the 1994-1995 agreements,” the country’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Friday.
 
Azerbaijan’s president has demanded the withdrawal of Armenian forces from Nagorno-Karabakh as the only way to end the fighting.
 
Both sides previously had dismissed demands for a truce in the disputed region, where fighting has escalated in recent days to levels not seen since the 1990s.  Dozens of people have been killed and hundreds of others injured in the fighting that erupted September 26.
 

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