Foreign Ministers Zohrab Mnatsakanian and Jeyhun Bayramov began a trilateral meeting with their Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov one day after Russia’s President Vladimir Putin invited them to Moscow for “consultations” on ending the nearly two-week hostilities along the Karabakh “line of contact.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, reported the start of the meeting with a photograph of the three ministers posted on her Facebook page.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Anna Naghdalian, announced Mnatsakanian’s departure to Moscow early in the afternoon. Citing Putin’s statement, Naghdalian said Mnatsakanian’s “consultations” with Lavrov and Bayramov “will focus exclusively on cessations of hostilities, humanitarian issues of exchanging bodies and prisoners of war.”
Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry also confirmed Bayramov’s trip to Moscow beforehand. The Azerbaijani foreign minister met with the Russian, U.S. and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group in Geneva on Thursday.
As part of the group’s mediation efforts, French President Emmanuel Macron again spoke with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev by phone on Thursday night and Friday morning respectively. A spokesman for Macron told the AFP news agency afterwards that the warring sides could reach a ceasefire agreement by Saturday.
Hours before the start of the Moscow talks Pashinian reiterated that Yerevan welcomes the joint Russian, French and U.S. efforts to stop the fighting and restart the peace process.
Meanwhile, fighting in the conflict zone continued overnight, according both conflicting parties. They also accused each other of continuing to shell civilian areas.
“Hostilities are intensively continuing at all sections of the frontline,” a Karabakh government spokesman wrote on Facebook in the afternoon.
Karabakh’s capital Stepanakert again came under Azerbaijani rocket fire on Friday morning after a relatively calm night. An RFE/RL correspondent at the scene, Naira Nalbandian, heard several explosions.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said, for its part, that Armenian forces are shelling Azerbaijani towns and villages north and east of Karabakh.