Putin to host leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan for talks


MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin is hosting the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan for talks on Friday, during which the three are expected to discuss ways to resolve the tensions over the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

In the southern city of Sochi, Putin held a bilateral meeting with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday. After that, the Russian president is to sit down with Aliyev and Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan together, and then have a separate bilateral meeting with Pashinyan.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in a decades-old dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, a region that lies within Azerbaijan but was under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a separatist war there ended in 1994.

The Azerbaijani military routed the Armenian forces in 44 days of fierce fighting in the fall of 2020, which ended with a Russia-brokered peace deal that saw Azerbaijan gain control of a significant part of Nagorno-Karabakh and reclaim all the regions controlled by Armenian forces outside the separatist region.

Russia has deployed nearly 2,000 peacekeepers for at least five years to monitor the peace deal.

The peace agreement was celebrated as a triumph in Azerbaijan but was seen as a betrayal by the opposition in Armenia. Pashinyan defended it as the only way to prevent the Armenian forces from losing control over the entire Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Pashinyan and Aliyev are also expected to meet in Brussels for the EU-sponsored talks on Dec. 15.

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