Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders accept Minsk Group co-chairs’ proposal to meet soon under their auspices

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YEREVAN, March 2. /ARKA/. The Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group (Igor Popov of the Russian Federation, Stéphane Visconti of France, and Andrew Schofer of the United States of America) met with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in Yerevan on 20 February and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Baku on 21 February to discuss preparations for a meeting of the leaders in the near future, including possible topics for discussion, the OSCE said in a press release.

The Co-Chairs also held discussions with the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan in their respective capitals.  The Co-Chairs were joined by the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Andrzej Kasprzyk.

During the meetings in the region, the leaders briefed the Co-Chairs on their recent conversation on the margins of the World Economic Forum in Davos in January. The leaders and the Co-Chairs discussed the situation on the ground and their expectations for next steps.

The Co-Chairs assessed positively the continuing lack of casualties on the line of contact. They also welcomed the developing discussions in the region about preparing populations for peace. The leaders accepted the Minsk Group Co-Chairs‘proposal to meet soon under their auspices.

Following their visit to the region, the Co-Chairs and the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office travelled to Vienna and Bratislava from 28 February to 1 March to brief the Permanent Representatives of the OSCE Minsk Group countries, OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger, and OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajčák.

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict erupted into armed clashes after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s as the predominantly Armenian-populated enclave of Azerbaijan sought to secede from Azerbaijan and declared its independence backed by a successful referendum.

On May 12, 1994, the Bishkek cease-fire agreement put an end to the military operations. A truce was brokered by Russia in 1994, although no permanent peace agreement has been signed.

Since then, Nagorno-Karabakh and several adjacent regions have been under the control of Armenian forces of Karabakh. Nagorno-Karabakh is the longest-running post-Soviet era conflict and has continued to simmer despite the relative peace of the past two decades, with snipers causing tens of deaths a year.
On April 2, 2016, Azerbaijan launched military assaults along the entire perimeter of its contact line with Nagorno-Karabakh. Four days later a cease-fire was reached.

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