Fri, 27 Nov 2020

Heavy Fighting Continues Over Nagorno-Karabakh

Voice of America
24 Oct 2020, 18:05 GMT+10

STATE DEPARTMENT - Heavy fighting continues over the Nagorno-Karabakh region as Armenia and Azerbaijan accuse each other of shelling residential areas.

Nagorno-Karabakh authorities said Azerbaijani rockets hit the town of Martakert and several villages in the Martuni region overnight.

Nagorno-Karabakh officials say 927 of their troops have been killed, and more than 30 civilians have died.

Azerbaijan has not disclosed its military losses but has said 63 civilians have been killed and 292 wounded.

While the fighting continued in the breakaway mountain enclave, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan to "end the violence and protect civilians" after nearly a month of intense fighting.

In a statement issued Friday after Pompeo met separately with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov and Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan in Washington the state department said, "The secretary also stressed the importance of the sides entering substantive negotiations under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs to resolve the conflict based on the Helsinki Final Act principles of the non-use or threat of force, territorial integrity, and the equal rights and self-determination of peoples."

Pompeo said in a tweet after his talks that he and both foreign ministers discussed "critical steps" to halt the violence. "Both must implement a ceasefire and return to substantive negotiations," he said.

Mnatsakanyan told VOA the talks were "very good" on Friday as he left the State Department, where about two dozen demonstrators, mostly Armenians, were gathered outside. When asked about a timeline for a cease-fire, he said "we [will] keep working on that." 

The meeting in Washington was arranged after two failed Russian attempts to broker a cease-fire in the worst outbreak of fighting over the region in more than a quarter-century.

Pompeo has joined other global leaders in pushing for an end to the fighting over the disputed territory. But Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said Wednesday he sees no possibility of a diplomatic solution at this stage of the conflict.

For his part, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has said Armenian forces must withdraw from Nagorno-Karabakh to end the fighting, which Russian President Vladimir said may have killed about 5,000 people since the violence erupted.

Turkey said Wednesday it will not hesitate to send troops and provide military support to help Azerbaijan if such a request is made. Pompeo has called on other countries not to provide "fuel" for the conflict.

Shortly before the meetings in Washington began, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he hoped to collaborate with Russia to resolve the conflict.

Aram Avetisyan of VOA's Armenian Service contributed reporting. 

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