U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is calling on the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan to “end the violence and protect civilians” after nearly a month of intense fighting in the breakaway mountain enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The State Department issued the statement Friday after Pompeo met separately with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov and Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan in Washington.
“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,” said State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus.
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 cease-fire 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.
Heavy fighting continued Friday in Nagorno-Karabakh, with both sides accusing each other of shelling residential areas.
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 Tayyip Erdogan said he hoped to collaborate with Russia to resolve the conflict.
Aram Avetisyan of VOA's Armenian Service and Wayne Lee contributed reporting.