Russia says Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed to attend peace talks in Moscow amid fighting in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova made the announcement on Friday, saying both Armenia and Azerbaijan had confirmed they would send their delegations.
“Baku and Yerevan have confirmed their participation in the consultations in Moscow. Active preparations are underway,” Zakharova told reporters.
Russian President Vladimir Putin had earlier invited the foreign ministers of the two sides to peace negotiations in Moscow.
Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but it has been under Armenia’s control since the early 1990s, when the territory declared secession which led to a bloody war.
The recent clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenian forces – the worst in decades – erupted on September 27, with both Yerevan and Baku accusing each other of provocation.
On Friday, the two sides fought new clashes, with Azerbaijan’s defense ministry saying there had been fierce fighting during the night along the line of contact that divides the two sides in Karabakh.
Fighting has continued despite the start of a peace drive by the United States, France and Russia.
Azeri Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov agreed to attend talks with the three powers on Thursday in Geneva but no details of the meeting have been released.
Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan did not attend the Geneva talks but reports said he was expected to meet Russian, French and US officials in Moscow on Monday.
The warring sides have ignored repeated calls to cease military hostilities.
Khankendi, the main city in Karabakh which ethnic Armenians call Stepanakert, was under shelling since Friday morning, the territory’s self-proclaimed defense ministry said.
Washington, Paris and Moscow have led mediation over Karabakh for almost three decades as co-chairs of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Minsk Group, but they have failed to settle the conflict.
The sticking point is four UN resolutions which call for unconditional withdrawal of military forces from the occupied territories, with Armenia preferring rather to maintain the status quo.
A ceasefire has been violated repeatedly since the end of a 1991-94 war that killed about 30,000 people.
Azerbaijan said on Thursday that 31 Azeri civilians have been killed and 154 wounded since Sept. 27. It has not disclosed information about military casualties.
Karabakh said on Friday 376 of its military personnel and 22 civilians had been killed since Sept. 27.
Azeri President Ilham Aliyev’s main demand for a ceasefire is for Armenia to set a timetable for a withdrawal from Karabakh and surrounding Azeri territories.
Armenia has ruled out a withdrawal from the territory and instead accused Turkey of military involvement in the conflict.
Source: Press TV