Armenia and Azerbaijan’s foreign ministers will meet U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington, DC, on Friday to discuss ongoing fighting between the countries in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The most recent clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the territory began on September 27 and have continued since then despite two attempts by Russia this month to mediate a ceasefire. Though sporadic skirmishes between the two sides over the breakaway territory — which legally belongs to Azerbaijan but is ruled by ethnic Armenian separatists — are relatively common, the fighting over the past month has already surpassed any clashes over the region since a 1991-1994 war that killed 30,000 people.
At a regularly scheduled press conference on Wednesday, reporters asked Pompeo what he hoped to achieve from Friday’s meeting with the two foreign ministers.
“It’s a complicated situation on the ground. It’s a complicated diplomatic situation,” the secretary of state acknowledged.
“And our view remains, as does the view of nearly every European country, that the right path forward is to cease the conflict – tell them to de-escalate, that every country should stay out, provide no fuel for this conflict, no weapons systems, no support. And it is at that point that a diplomatic solution would be acceptable to all and could potentially be achieved,” Pompeo said.
“That’s what I’ll talk to them about on Friday. And I’m anxious to hear from them what they’re seeing on the ground, and how we might get close to what is, we think is not only in the United States’ best interest, but in each of their country’s best interest as well,” he added.
Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, met separately this week with the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia, according to a statement released by Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday:
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held separate meetings in Moscow with Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan Jeyhun Bayramov, on October 20, and with Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, on October 21.
The ministers discussed urgent matters related to the implementation of the earlier agreements on a ceasefire in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone and the creation of conditions for a stable settlement of the conflict.
According to the Moscow Times on Wednesday, “Armenian foreign ministry spokeswoman Anna Nagdalyan confirmed that Mnatsakanyan met Lavrov on Wednesday,” while “Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry said only that its top diplomat had traveled to Moscow ‘for consultations.'”
Like Lavrov, Pompeo will meet the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan separately on Friday, according to the Russian newspaper: “A trilateral meeting in Washington has also been ruled out and they will meet Pompeo separately.”