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Azerbaijan, Armenia hold peace talks in US hours after fresh shootout

Armenia and Azerbaijan have held peace talks mediated by the United States, just hours after a fresh shootout along their troubled border in a conflict which has left hundreds dead in recent months.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken hosted the foreign ministers of the rival nations on Monday.

“The United States is committed to the peace negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan,” Blinken said before the meeting. 

“Direct dialogue is the best way to a truly durable peace, and we are very pleased to support that.”

An American official speaking on condition of anonymity said the meeting was less about peace negotiations in the full sense of the term, and more about providing an opportunity for the warring parties to meet and talk.

On Monday, Azerbaijan’s defence ministry accused Armenian forces of shooting at the positions of Azerbaijani troops stationed at several locations on the frontier.

Meanwhile, Yerevan’s defence ministry accused Azerbaijani forces of opening fire on Armenian positions in a statement, adding there had been no casualties.

READ MORE: Türkiye extends mandate of troops deployed in Azerbaijan for one more year

Russia summit

Also on Monday, a top Russian official called on Azerbaijan and Armenia to refrain from steps toward escalating tensions.

“We continue to call on both sides to refrain from dangerous actions and steps that could lead to escalating tensions on the line of contact,” Russian Presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters during a briefing.

A week earlier, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan “agreed not to use force” to resolve their dispute over the Karabakh territory, during a summit in Russia hosted by President Vladimir Putin.

Relations between the two former Soviet republics have been tense since 1991, when the Armenian military occupied Karabakh, a territory internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan.

In the fall of 2020, in 44 days of clashes, Baku liberated several cities, villages, and settlements from Armenian occupation, ending in a Moscow-brokered truce. 

The peace agreement is celebrated as a triumph in Azerbaijan.

READ MORE: Can Azerbaijan and Armenia find lasting peace?

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