U.S. hosts Armenia, Azerbaijan in peace talks amid cease-fire

As a fragile cease-fire holds, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken met with Armenia's and Azerbaijan's foreign ministers on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. The meeting comes days after a U.S. congressional delegation visited Armenia. 

Craig Ruttle/AP
Secretary of State Antony Blinken (center) meets with an Armenian delegation including Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan (third from left) and a delegation with Azerbaijan including Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov (second from right) on Sept. 19.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan on Monday in a bid to ease tensions and maintain a fragile cease-fire between the ex-Soviet countries and rivals following the largest outbreak of hostilities in more than two years.

Mr. Blinken brought Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov together at a New York hotel on the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly. It was the foreign ministers’ first face-to-face meeting since two days of shelling last week by both sides killed more than 200 troops.

Only Mr. Blinken spoke at the start of the meeting at which the Armenian and Azerbaijani delegations sat somberly on opposite sides, separated by U.S. officials. 

“We are encouraged by the fact that the fighting has ceased and there has not been” a resumption of shelling, said Mr. Blinken, who has spoken several times to the leaders of both countries.

“Strong, sustainable diplomatic engagement is the best path for everyone,” he said. “There is a path to a durable peace that resolves the differences.”

Mr. Blinken emphasized the need to prevent further fighting and return to the peace process, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement. 

“They discussed next steps, and the Secretary encouraged the sides to meet again before the end of the month,” Mr. Price said.

The meeting was held just a day after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Armenia Saturday and condemned Azeri attacks, drawing complaints from Baku. On Friday, Ms. Pelosi told reporters in Berlin that the trip “is all about human rights and respecting the dignity and worth of every person.”

Speaking ahead of Monday’s meeting, Mr. Bayramov said his country is “satisfied with the level of relations” with the United States and said his direct talks with Mr. Mirzoyan were not unusual.

“We are always open for meetings,” Mr. Bayramov said.

A cease-fire took effect on Wednesday evening following two days of heavy fighting that marked the largest outbreak of hostilities in nearly two years, and threatened to drag Turkey, Azerbaijan’s key backer, and Armenia ally Russia into a wider conflict at a time of already high geopolitical tensions.

Armenia and Azerbaijan traded blame for the shelling, with Armenian authorities accusing Baku of unprovoked aggression and Azerbaijani officials saying their country was responding to Armenian attacks.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said at least 135 Armenian troops were killed in the fighting. Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said Friday it had lost 77.

The two Caucasus countries have been locked in a decades-old conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a region located within Azerbaijan but that had been long under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Yerevan since a separatist war ended in 1994.

During a six-week war in 2020, Azerbaijan reclaimed broad swaths of Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent territories held by Armenian forces. More than 6,700 people died in that fighting, which ended with a Russia-brokered peace agreement. Moscow deployed about 2,000 troops to the region to serve as peacekeepers.

This story was reported by The Associated Press. Material from Reuters contributed to this report.

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