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July 16, 2022 9:59 am

Armenia, Azerbaijan FMs Hold Rare Bilateral Talks

avatar by i24 News

A house is seen set on fire by departing Ethnic Armenians, in an area which had held under their military control but is soon to be turned over to Azerbaijan, in the village of Cherektar in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, November 14, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Stringer

i24 NewsThe foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan were due to hold Saturday their first bilateral talks since the 2020 war between the arch-foes for control of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, officials said.

Held in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, the talks were expected to build on an agreement the Caucasus countries’ leaders reached under European Union mediation in May to “advance discussions” on a peace treaty.

“This is the first meeting between the ministers, and we hope that it will bring in a result,” Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said Friday.

The atmosphere was tense ahead of the meeting between Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan and his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov as both countries’ defense ministries traded accusations of initiating a shootout at their shared border.

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Armenia and Azerbaijan fought two wars – in 2020 and in the 1990s – over Azerbaijan’s Armenian-populated region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Ethnic Armenian separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. The ensuing conflict claimed some 30,000 lives.

Six weeks of fighting in 2020 claimed more than 6,500 lives and ended with a Russian-brokered ceasefire. Under the deal, Armenia ceded swathes of territory that it controlled for decades, and Russia deployed some 2,000 peacekeepers to oversee the fragile truce.

Following its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, increasingly isolated Moscow lost its status as a primary mediator in the conflict.

The EU has since led the Armenia-Azerbaijan normalization process, which involves peace talks, border delimitation, and the reopening of transport links.

Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan met in Belgium earlier this year, and European Council President Charles Michel said their next meeting is scheduled for July or August.

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