Pompeo meets with Azeri, Armenian counterparts, calls for end to violence

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and Azeri Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov separately in Washington, D.C. on Friday.

Pompeo emphasised the need to end violence in Nagorno-Karabakh and protect civilians, according to a readout released by the State Department on the meetings.

Armenia and Azerbaijan "must implement a ceasefire and return to substantive negotiations," Pompeo said in a tweet.

Armenian and Azeri forces have been figthing for over three weeks in and around the disputed regions of Nagorno-Karabakh. Azeri forces reportedly have made significant gains in recent days, seizing a number of villages with extensive military support from Turkey.

Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a war over the breakaway region between 1988 and 1994 that killed some 30,000 people and displaced one million others. They declared a ceasefire in 1994, but have failed to agree to a peace treaty. Both sides have initiated clashes sporadically several times during the three decades of relative calm, and the current conflict is the largest and deadliest since the 1994 truce.

According to the U.S. readout, Pompeo also "stressed the importance of the sides entering substantive negotiations under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs to resolve the conflict based on the Helsinki Final Act principles of the non-use of threat of force, territorial integrity, and the equal rights and self-determination of peoples."

The Minsk Group is co-chaired by the United States, France and Russia. Turkish officials have been criticising the group for failing to make any serious progress on the matter, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called on Armenia to withdraw from Nagorno-Karabakh and signalled that the fight would continue until Armenia does so.