The first direct talks aimed at halting the deadliest fighting in twenty-five years between Armenia and Azerbaijan are underway in Moscow. The talks between the foreign ministers of both countries are being mediated by their Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. It’s the first diplomatic contact between the enemies since fighting over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave erupted on September 27, killing hundreds of people and displacing thousands.
As the talks got underway, Azerbaijan’s president has ruled out making any concessions to Armenia.
In an address to the nation, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said he is giving Armenia the last chance to withdraw its troops and get back to negotiations.
“We will take back our lands – peacefully or through war. Unequivocally. We want to organize it peacefully, let’s get it peacefully. We give Armenia one last chance, one last chance,” Aliyev said.
The Nagorno-Karabakh region lies in Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since the end of a separatist war in 1994.
“Karabakh is Azerbaijan. Everyone should know this, including those in charge of Armenia today. I tell them again that if they commit fraud again after the Moscow talks, they will regret it,” Aliyev added.
“Let those holding talks in Moscow know that it’s our territory and we won’t be making any concessions.”
But Armenians regard the region as part of their historic homeland. The Armenian government said Friday’s talks would focus on a cessation of hostilities and exchanges of bodies and prisoners.
Meanwhile, the head of the World Health Organization has called for a ceasefire in the ongoing conflict, saying health workers should never be attacked, especially during the global outbreak of COVID-19.
“This is a pandemic which is affecting the whole world. So I hope they would agree to a ceasefire. And second, any differences could be resolved amicably and we hope that this conflict also will be resolved amicably, without the loss of life from any of the parties,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a news briefing in Geneva.
The renewed fighting has raised fears of a wider war drawing in Turkey, a close ally of Azerbaijan, and Russia, which has a defence pact with Armenia.
The clashes have also increased concern about the security of pipelines that carry Azeri oil and gas to Europe.