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U.S. Praises Armenia And Azerbaijan For “Courageous Steps” Towards Peace

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has praised Armenia and Azerbaijan for taking "courageous steps" toward peace as the foreign ministers from the two countries met in Washington.

Blinken met with Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Ceyhun Bayramov on November 7 at Blair House, a state guest house across from the White House.

"What we are seeing now are real steps and courageous steps by both countries to put the past behind and to work toward a durable peace," Blinken said in public comments at the opening of the meeting.

The talks come just weeks after the worst fighting between the two countries since a 2020 war over control of the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Blinken said the talks would build on earlier discussions at the UN General Assembly in New York and other conversations between officials from Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the United States.

"The United States as a friend to both Armenia and Azerbaijan is committed to doing everything that we can to support you in this effort," he added.

The rest of the meeting was being held behind closed doors.

As Moscow finds itself facing growing international isolation for its invasion of Ukraine, the United States and the European Union have stepped up efforts to mediate talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on November 7 called on both parties to "refrain from actions and steps that could lead to an escalation of tensions."

Before the talks opened, Armenia and Azerbaijan accused each other of violating a truce along their tense border.

Azerbaijani forces opened fire on Armenian positions "in the eastern sector of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border," the Armenian Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The statement said there were "no casualties, and the situation on the front line was relatively stable" early on November 7.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in a conflict over the breakaway region of 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 and killed thousands of people on both sides before a Russia-brokered cease-fire, resulting in Armenia losing control over parts of the region, which is part of Azerbaijan, and seven adjacent districts.

Under the cease-fire Moscow deployed about 2,000 troops to the region to serve as peacekeepers.

Davit Babayan, a de facto foreign minister of Nagorno-Karabakh, dismissed reports that appeared in Azerbaijan over the weekend about Russian peacekeepers carrying out arms deliveries to the region.

Babayan described as "information terrorism" reports about the transfer of military equipment to Nagorno-Karabakh through the Lachin corridor, which connects the region to Armenia and is controlled by Russian peacekeepers.

He claimed Azerbaijan may use the reports as a pretext for another provocation against the region's ethnic Armenians in order "to undermine the agreement" regarding the Lachin corridor.

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"Naturally, no military equipment has been transported because there are cameras. Everything is under surveillance," Babayan said.

The Russian peacekeeping mission in Nagorno-Karabakh said on Telegram on November 5 that 12 tons of humanitarian cargo had been delivered to Nagorno-Karabakh. The Russian side said the peacekeepers had already handed over basic necessities and food packages to 324 families in the Martuni area of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Suspicions about shipments were raised by a video posted on the Internet on the same day purporting to show several trucks with the inscription Russian Army on them driving out of a cargo plane at a Yerevan airport and then traveling to Nagorno-Karabakh.

Telegram channels in Azerbaijan also alleged that authorities in Baku prohibited a Russian Air Force plane from flying into Armenia through Azerbaijani airspace and that the aircraft, which allegedly carried weapons, had to make a detour to reach Armenia via Iran.

There has been no comment on the matter from officials in Baku, Moscow, or Yerevan.

By RFE/RL

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