US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has urged “a durable peace” between Armenia and Azerbaijan, as the top United States diplomat brought the two nations’ foreign ministers together for their first in-person meeting since an outbreak of violence last week.
Blinken hosted Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov at a New York City hotel on Monday on the sidelines of the annual United Nations General Assembly.
It was the foreign ministers’ first face-to-face meeting since two days of shelling last week.
Blinken said he was “encouraged” there had been no violence for several days. “Strong, sustainable diplomatic engagement is the best path for everyone,” he said ahead of the meeting.
“There is a path to a durable peace that resolves the differences through diplomacy. The United States is prepared to do whatever it can to support these efforts. And I’m grateful to both of my colleagues for being here today to pursue this conversation.”
The meeting was held just a day after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Armenia and condemned Azeri attacks, drawing complaints from Baku.
“The unsubstantiated and unfair accusations levelled by Pelosi against Azerbaijan are unacceptable,” the country’s foreign ministry said in a statement. “This is a serious blow to the efforts to normalise relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan.”
The national security council in Armenia revised its death toll from last week’s fighting from 136 to 207, taking total fatalities on both sides to 286.
A ceasefire took effect on Wednesday after the outbreak of violence, which marked the worst flare-up since Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a six-week war over the Nagorno-Karabakh region in 2020.
The two former Soviet countries have been locked in a decades-old conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnically Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan that has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a separatist war there ended in 1994.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have traded blame for the latest round of shelling, with Armenian authorities accusing Baku of unprovoked aggression and Azeri officials saying their country was responding to Armenian attacks.
Speaking ahead of Monday’s meeting in New York City, Azeri Foreign Minister Bayramov said his country is “satisfied with the level of relations” with the US.
Bayramov also said his direct talks with his Armenian counterpart, Mirzoyan, were not unusual. “We are always open for meetings,” he said.