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Armenia, Azerbaijan foreign ministers hold first bilateral talks since 2020

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This handout picture taken and released by Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on July 16, 2022 shows Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Jeyhun Bayramov (L) and Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan looking on during a meeting in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. (Via AFP)

Top diplomats of Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan have held their first talks since a deadly war between the two sides over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region in 2020.

The negotiation was held in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi on Saturday, AFP reported citing officials.

Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan and his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov "discussed a wide range of issues related to normalizing relations between the two countries," the Armenian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Mirzoyan "stressed the importance of the Karabakh conflict's political resolution for building a lasting peace in the (Caucasus) region" and called on Baku to release Armenian prisoners of war, the ministry added.

The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, for its part, said Bayramov demanded "the withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from the territory of Azerbaijan," referring to the parts of Karabakh still under Armenian separatists' control.

He also "noted the importance of clarifying the fates of nearly 4,000 missing Azerbaijanis," Baku said, adding, "The ministers pledged to continue the direct dialogue between Azerbaijan and Armenia."

Tensions between Yerevan and Baku remain relatively high nearly two years after the arch-foes fought a war over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. The six-week conflict, which claimed more than 6,500 lives on both sides, ended in November 2020 with a Russian-brokered deal.

Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but has been populated by ethnic Armenians. Russia has deployed 1,960 peacekeepers to the region for an initial five-year period. Since the truce, the two sides have accused each other of breaching the peace deal.

Since February 24, when Russia started a special military operation in Ukraine, the European Union has been functioning as the key mediator between the two sides.

Azeri President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan met in Brussels in April and May. According to European Council President Charles Michel their next meeting is scheduled for July or August.

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