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At EU meeting, Armenia and Azerbaijan agree to start peace talks over Nagorno-Karabakh

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By AFP  with Euronews
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan(L), European Council President Charles Michel (C), and Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev (R).
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan(L), European Council President Charles Michel (C), and Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev (R).   -   Copyright  FRANÇOIS WALSCHAERTS / AFP

Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed to start preparations for peace talks to resolve three decades of conflict in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev met in Brussels on Wednesday alongside European Council President Charles Michel.

Michel said in a statement that both leaders "have expressed their willingness to move quickly towards a peace agreement".

The announcement came after a resurgence of tensions in March. The latest war in Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020 left an estimated 6,500 people dead.

After their talks in Brussels, Pashinyan and Aliyev ordered their respective foreign ministers to "start preparations for peace talks between the two countries," Armenia's foreign ministry said on Thursday.

"An agreement was reached at the meeting [...] to set up a bilateral commission on border demarcation issues," it added.

The commission will ensure security and stability along the border between the two countries.

Last week, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry announced that work was underway to start peace negotiations.

Russia has welcomed the "very positive" news, but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has stressed that "it is clear that the process will take a long time".

In November 2020, a Kremlin-mediated ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan ended a six-week war between the two former Soviet republics.

The conflict ended in defeat for Armenia, which was forced to hand over large areas of the breakaway region it had controlled since the early 1990s.

Russia had accused Azerbaijan in late March of violating a ceasefire negotiated by President Vladimir Putin to end the 2020 conflict.

Last month, Armenia accused Azerbaijani forces of firing on residents inside Nagorno-Karabakh and said three people had died.

Yerevan has also accused Baku of cutting off the gas supply to Nagorno-Karabakh during the winter. Azerbaijan has dismissed these accusations, insisting on its sovereignty over the region.

On the eve of the meeting between Pashinyan and Aliyev, thousands of Armenians marched through the capital to protest against further possible concessions.