Moscow, Oct 9 (efe-epa).- The foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan are meeting in the Russian capital on Friday for the first time since conflict between the two countries broke out over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov is to preside over the meeting between Armenia’s Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and Azerbaijan’s Jeyhun Bayramov.
Moscow has called for a cessation of hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh, a majority Armenian region within Azerbaijan which has been run by Armenian separatists for decades.
The fighting that erupted late last month and has killed at least 53 civilians, according to the United Nations. Hundreds of soldiers from both sides have also been killed.
Russia’s president Vladimir Putin invited the top diplomats from the warring countries to discuss a ceasefire on “humanitarian grounds.”
Putin has described the fighting as a “tragedy” but has so far not got involved militarily in the conflict. Moscow has an airbase in Armenia.
Although Nagorno-Karabakh functions as a de facto republic although it is not recognized by any member of the international community.
Last week the leaders of Russia, the United States and France, all co-chairs of the OSCE’s Minsk Group, originally set up to end fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh in the 1990s, penned a joint statement calling for a ceasefire.
Armenia’s prime minister Nikol Pashinyan said his country was open to returning to the peace process, so long as it was based on the framework of the deal stuck in the 1990s, which left Nagorno-Karabakh in the hands of Armenian separatists.
As the foreign minister headed to Moscow, Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Aliyev said: “Now the conflict is being resolved militarily. Later it will be done politically.”
He also said that Azerbaijani forces had captured the strategic town of Hadrut.
“Everyday we get good news from the front,” he said.
The conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh has its origins in the collapse of the Soviet Union, when in the 1980s the majority Armenian population of the Azeri territory requested it be incorporated into Armenia proper.
The resulting conflict left over 25,000 dead.
The Armenian forces remained in control of the region when fighting ended in 1994. Armenian soldiers also occupied the territory between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.
Azerbaijan insists the only solution to the conflict is for Nagorno-Karabakh to be brought under its sovereignty. EFE-EPA