Ceyhun Bayramov

U.S. Seeks End To Hostilities In Meeting With Armenian, Azerbaijani Foreign Ministers

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The United States has urged a quick return to face-to-face meetings between Armenian and Azerbaijani officials to ease tensions after recent border fighting that killed more than 200 people.

The State Department said Secretary Antony Blinken had conveyed condolences and “emphasized the need to prevent further hostilities” in his meeting in New York on September 19 with Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s top diplomats.

The meeting between Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Ceyhun Bayramov came on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly that kicked off this week.

Both Caucasus countries afterwards stressed their respective interest in avoiding escalation.

“They discussed next steps, and the Secretary [Blinken] encouraged the sides to meet again before the end of the month,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said of the meeting.

Armenia’s Foreign Ministry said Mirzoyan pushed for the immediate withdrawal of Azerbaijani armed forces from Armenian territory and decried the use of military force as unacceptable.

Mirzoyan urged the implementation of international mechanisms to prevent the situation from escalating, Yerevan said.

He also repeated a long-standing demand by Yerevan for the return of prisoners of war from the two sides’ intense 44-day conflict in 2020 in which a Russian-backed cease-fire cemented the return to Azerbaijan of wide swaths of territory in an around Nagorno-Karabakh that had been held for decades by ethnic Armenians.

Baku and Yerevan have been locked in conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh for years. Armenian-backed separatists seized the mainly Armenian-populated region from Azerbaijan during a war in the early 1990s that killed some 30,000 people.

The two sides fought another war in 2020 that lasted six weeks before a Russia-brokered cease-fire, resulting in Armenia losing control over parts of the region and seven adjacent districts.

The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said Bayramov told the meeting that “Azerbaijan is not interested in destabilization” and stressed Baku’s efforts to rebuild areas held for decades by ethnic Armenians and to resettle internally displaced persons there.

It quoted Bayramov as accusing Armenia of “obstructing” efforts at reopening communication lines, border demarcation, and humanitarian efforts and “grossly violat[ing] its obligations within the tripartite declarations.”

In the latest spasm of violence, the two countries last week traded artillery and mortars across their shared border, and Azerbaijani forces targeted sites within the borders of Armenia itself.

Russia, which maintains ties with both countries, brokered a cease-fire not long after the fighting erupted, but clashes continued.

Armenia has said the clashes left 207 people dead or missing on its side and Baku has reported 79 deaths among its military.

During a visit to Armenia last week, U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi blamed Azerbaijan for the latest violence, adding, “We strongly condemn those attacks.”

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay responded on September 19 by saying the White House should clarify whether her statements reflect the official view of the United States.

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