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Germany hosts peace talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan


BERLIN, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Germany welcomed the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia for two days of peace talks on Wednesday, five months after Azerbaijan recaptured its Karabakh region from its ethnic Armenian majority, prompting a mass exodus of ethnic Armenians.


Azerbaijan has been increasingly hostile to outside involvement in brokering an agreement, with President Ilham Aliyev accusing the United States of jeopardising relations by siding with Armenia.


But German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock travelled to the two countries in November. And German Chancellor Olaf Scholz met Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference this month.


“Both Prime Minister (Nikol) Pashinyan and President (Ilham) Aliyev have stated they are ready for peace, to solve the outstanding issues exclusively through peaceful means," Baerbock said at the start of the talks.


In December, the South Caucasus neighbours issued a joint statement saying they want to reach a peace deal.


Christian Armenia and mostly Muslim Azerbaijan first went to war over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh in 1988. After decades of enmity, Azerbaijan in September recaptured Karabakh, controlled by its ethnic Armenian majority since the 1990s despite being internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan.


The offensive prompted most of the region's 120,000 ethnic Armenians to flee to neighbouring Armenia.


Armenia described the offensive as ethnic cleansing. Azerbaijan denied that and said those who fled could have stayed on and been integrated into Azerbaijan.


"Thirty years of conflict have caused tremendous suffering, lives lost and deep scars on both sides," said Baerbock, noting that it was especially painful as many people had family or friendship ties on both sides of the border.


Baerbock met separately with her Azerbaijani and Armenian counterparts on Wednesday before hosting the trilateral meeting.


Among the outstanding issues between the two neighbours is the lack of agreement over their shared border, with each holding small enclaves surrounded by the other's territory.


The United States, the European Union and Russia have all tried for decades to mediate between the two sides.


 

Reuters, 2024

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