Otago Daily Times

Peace a dim prospect on eve of talks


BAKU/YEREVAN: Hopes of ending nearly a month of bloodshed in NagornoKar­abakh looked slim yesterday as Azeri and ethnic Armenian forces fought new battles on the eve of talks in Washington.

Plans for US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia today raised hopes this week that the two former Soviet republics would agree to end their deadliest fighting since the mid1990s.

However, those hopes have been dented by the continued heavy fighting in the breakaway territory that is inside Azerbaijan but controlled by ethnic Armenians, and by angry rhetoric from both sides.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said yesterday Moscow believed nearly 5000 people had been killed in the fighting, more than 2000 on each side.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said on Thursday he could see no diplomatic resolution of the longrunnin­g conflict at this stage, and Azeri President Ilham Aliyev said yesterday the prospects of reaching a peace settlement were ‘‘very remote’’.

Reiteratin­g Azerbaijan’s main condition for ending the fighting,

Aliyev demanded promises that his country would be handed back control of NagornoKar­abakh, which broke away as the Soviet Union collapsed.

‘‘So our main objective at these discussion­s will be to find out whether the Armenian leadership is ready to liberate our territorie­s or not, and if ready, then when?’’ he said.

Russia has brokered two ceasefires since September 27 but neither has held.

Azerbaijan reported fighting in several areas yesterday, including territorie­s near the line of contact that divides the sides.

Armenia reported fighting in several areas, and NagornoKar­abakh officials said the town of Martuni and nearby villages had been shelled. — Reuters

 ?? PHOTO: REUTERS ?? A fragment of an artillery shell lies on the front line in NagornoKar­abakh.
PHOTO: REUTERS A fragment of an artillery shell lies on the front line in NagornoKar­abakh.

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