Tue, 11 May 2021

Optimism that upcoming talks in Washington will quell fighting between Azerbaijani and ethnic Armenian forces over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh appeared to dim as the two sides engaged in new battles and leaders in Baku and Yerevan hardened their positions.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said in an interview published on October 22 that the prospects of reaching a peace settlement were 'very remote.' The day before, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said that he could see no diplomatic solution to the long-running conflict at this stage.

Despite their negative tone, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he hoped that the United States would work with Moscow to broker a resolution to the conflict.

'I very much hope that our American partners will act in unison with us and will help the settlement,' Putin said on October 22 in Moscow.

Two Russia-brokered cease-fires collapsed instantly after taking effect as the warring sides continue to engage in fierce fighting involving artillery, rockets, and drones.

Putin's comments come as Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Ceyhun Bayramov are due to meet separately with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington on October 23.

Pompeo has said he would tell them that 'the right path forward is to cease the conflict, tell them to deescalate, that every country should stay out -- provide no fuel for this conflict, no weapons systems, no support.'

The meeting will take place as heavy fighting continues over Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory located inside Azerbaijan but controlled by ethnic Armenians, as well as surrounding areas controlled by Armenian forces.

Hundreds of people have been killed since fighting flared on September 27, raising fears of a wider conflict in the South Caucasus drawing in Turkey, which backs Azerbaijan, and Russia, a key player in the region that has a military treaty with Armenia.

Ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh on October 22 published the names of 26 more of their soldiers who had died in the fighting, bringing the number of fighters killed on the Armenian side to 897.

Azerbaijan has not disclosed its military casualties. It has said 61 Azeri civilians have been killed and 282 wounded.

Putin said on October 22 that Moscow believed that nearly 5,000 people had been killed cumulatively in the fighting.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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