Azerbaijan says separatist clashes no threat to Formula One

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BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) Azerbaijan says fighting with separatists from the region of Nagorno-Karabakh will not threaten its first-ever Formula One race in June.

A boy and at least 30 troops from both sides have been killed in the most intense fighting in the area since 1994 between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces.

Each side blames the other for the sudden increase in violence, which is taking place about 250 kilometers (155 miles) west of the Azerbaijani capital Baku, where the country’s first F1 race is due to be held June 19.

Samaya Mammadova, spokeswoman for Azerbaijan’s sports and youth ministry, said Sunday that the fighting “has no effect on events being hosted in the country,” including F1.

“Azerbaijan always, to the highest standard, keeps athletes, tourists, fans and all participants safe at any events taking place in the country,” she said.

Nagorno-Karabakh, a region in Azerbaijan, has been under the control of local ethnic Armenian forces and the Armenian military since a war ended in 1994 with no resolution of the area’s status. The conflict is fueled by long-simmering tensions between Christian Armenians and mostly Muslim Azeris.

Armenian forces also occupy several areas outside Nagorno-Karabakh. The sides are separated by a demilitarized buffer zone but small clashes break out frequently.