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The Associated Press
Vagho Beglaryan, 92, an elderly ethnic Armenian man stands in the center of an empty street between abandoned and destroyed houses during the fighting in Martakert province in the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan, Monday, April 4, 2016. Fighting raged Monday around Nagorno-Karabakh, with Azerbaijan saying it lost three of its troops in the separatist region while inflicting heavy casualties on Armenian forces and the Armenian president warning that the hostilities could slide into a full-scale war. (Vahan Stepanyan, PAN Photo via AP)

GAPANLI, Azerbaijan — Azerbaijan and separatist forces in Nagorno-Karabakhk on Tuesday agreed on a cease-fire starting noon local time following three days of the heaviest fighting in the disputed region since 1994, the Azeri defense ministry announced.

The operations of Azerbaijani and Karabakh troops "have been stopped," the ministry said.

Senor Asratyan, a spokesman for the defense ministry of self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh, confirmed the cease-fire deal to the AP.

An Associated Press reporter in the front-line area of Azerbaijan heard shelling Tuesday morning but there was no sound of fighting in the early afternoon.

Fighting erupted over the weekend in what had been a dormant conflict. Each side accused the other of provoking the escalation and using heavy weaponry.

The outbreak of hostilities is the worst since a war that ended in 1994 and left Nagorno-Karabakh — officially a part of Azerbaijan — under the control of local ethnic Armenian forces and the Armenian military. Armenian forces also occupy several areas outside Karabakh proper.

The conflict is fueled by long-simmering tensions between Christian Armenians and mostly Muslim Azeris. Armenia, although supporting the separatists, insists that its army does not engage in the fighting.

Earlier, the Azeri government said 16 Azerbaijani troops and one civilian were killed in the past two days of fighting as Karabakh militia continued to shell its positions Monday night.

Following the cease-fire announcement, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov, in a telephone call with the EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, called for a "solid political process" toward a peace settlement in Karabakh.

In Terter, an Azerbaijan front-line town over 300 kilometers (190 miles) west of the capital Baku, artillery salvos were heard late Monday.

"We're used to fighting but I can hardly remember such intense shelling as in the past days," Malahat Novruzova, a 50-year old local resident, told The Associated Press.

The region's chief, Mustagim Mammodov, said Tuesday that a 16-year-old girl was killed in shelling in the village of Hasangaya, south-west of Terter, the third civilian victim since the fighting broke out.

The numbers of casualties claimed by both sides have varied greatly since fighting started Saturday, with both Azerbaijan and Karabakh reporting dozens if not hundreds of troops killed on the other side.

Gapanli, a village south of Terter, has been one of the hardest hit. Houses bear the marks of the recent shelling; metal doors are riddled with shrapnel, power lines are cut down, craters are seen in the yards.

Some villagers left after the weekend's fighting.

"We have sent our wives, children to a nearby village, but we will stay in this village till the end," Elmar Abdullayev said. "This is our land. We will stand up for our rights till the end."

An AP reporter had to leave the village, situated less than half a mile from the Karabakh positions, early Monday afternoon when shelling resumed around the village.

In Armenia, the defense ministry reported fighting spilling beyond Karabakh, to the north-east of the country's border, saying their positions were shelled with large-caliber mortars late on Monday, injuring one soldier.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Tuesday reiterated his country's support, saying that it will stand with its traditional ally Azerbaijan "until all of its lands under occupation have been liberated."

In a much-anticipated mediation attempt, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will be traveling to Azerbaijan's capital on Thursday while Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev will be in Armenia's Yerevan on the same day.

Avet Demourian in Yerevan, Armenia and Suzan Fraser in Ankara contributed to this report.