Tuesday, October 4, 2022

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Blinken calls for diplomacy at meeting of foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken receives the foreign ministers for the first meeting since last week’s deadly border fighting.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been pushing for “a lasting peace” between Armenia and Azerbaijan as the top US diplomat brought together the two nations’ foreign ministers for their first face-to-face meeting since violence erupted last week.

Blinken received Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov at a hotel in New York City Monday on the sidelines of the annual United Nations General Assembly.

It was the first face-to-face meeting of foreign ministers since two days of shelling last week.

Blinken said he was “encouraged” that there had been no violence for several days. “A strong, sustained diplomatic engagement is the best path for everyone,” he said ahead of the meeting.

“There is a way to a lasting peace that is to resolve differences through diplomacy. The United States stands ready to do whatever it can to support these efforts. And I am grateful to my two colleagues for being here today to continue this conversation.”

The meeting came just a day after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Armenia and condemned the attacks by the Azerbaijanis, drawing complaints from Baku.

“Pelosi’s baseless and unfair allegations against Azerbaijan are unacceptable,” the country’s foreign ministry said in a statement. “This is a major blow to efforts to normalize relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan.”

The National Security Council in Armenia revised the death toll from last week’s fighting to 207 from 136, raising the total death toll on both sides to 286.

A ceasefire came into effect on Wednesday following the outbreak of violence, marking the worst flare-up since the six-week war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region in 2020.

The two former Soviet countries are locked in a decades-long conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnically Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan that has been under the control of ethnically Armenian-backed Armenian forces since the end of a separatist war in 1994.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have traded blame for the latest round of shelling, with Armenian authorities blaming Baku for unprovoked aggression and Azerbaijani officials saying their country responded to Armenian attacks.

Ahead of Monday’s meeting in New York City, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Bayramov said his country was “satisfied with the level of relations” with the US.

Bayramov also said that his direct talks with his Armenian counterpart, Mirsoyan, were not unusual. “We’re always open to meetings,” he said.

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