Azerbaijan says talks only if fighting stops; main Karabakh city faces heavy firing
Armenia accused Azerbaijani forces of striking the main city in the disputed Nagorny Karabakh region on Friday as fighting raged for a sixth day.
International calls for the two neighbours to halt fire and begin talks are intensifying as fears grow that the clashes could expand into a multi-front war sucking in regional powers Turkey and Russia.
French President Emmanuel Macron has warned NATO member Turkey — which backs Azerbaijan — against the alleged deployment of militants from Syria to the Karabakh conflict.
On Thursday, leaders of Russia, France and the United States — co-chairs of the so-called Minsk Group, which was set up by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in 1992 to resolve the conflict — issued a joint statement statement calling for immediate cessation of hostilities and resuming substantive negotiations … under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs.
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Armenia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday that the country stands ready to engage with the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group to reestablish a cease-fire regime based on the 1994-1995 agreements.
Armenia remains committed to the peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the statement read.
The deadly clashes in the region resumed Friday, with Armenian military officials reporting Azerbaijan carrying out strikes on Nagorno-Karabakh’s capital Stepanakert, and Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry accusing Armenian forces of shelling the Agdam region.
Yerevan on Friday expressed its readiness to work with international mediators to bring a halt to the fighting.
Armenia “stands ready to engage” with France, Russia, and the U.S. — which co-chair the OSCE group of mediators — “to re-establish a ceasefire regime,” the foreign ministry in Yerevan said.
But it said that talks could not begin unless fighting is halted.
Baku and Yerevan have for decades been locked in a simmering conflict over the ethnic Armenian province that broke away from Azerbaijan in a bitterly fought war in the 1990s.
New fighting that erupted on Sunday has been the heaviest in decades and has claimed nearly 200 lives, including more than 30 civilians.
Armenia said Azerbaijani forces on Friday struck Stepanakert, the main city in Karabakh, wounding “many” people and damaging civilian infrastructure. Ambulance sirens were heard following loud explosions.
The separatist government in Stepanakert said Azerbaijani forces had destroyed a bridge linking Armenia to Karabakh