Stepanakert | The heads of the Armenian and Azerbaijani diplomacy were expected Friday in Moscow at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin to try to start a dialogue on the separatist region of Nagorno Karabakh, where the fighting continued.
After days and nights of intense clashes, however, an AFP journalist testified to a rather calm night in the capital of the separatist territory, Stepanakert, while Baku and Yerevan indicated that the situation remained tense on the front. .
“Artillery fire continued in several areas of the front line. The enemy struck populated areas with rockets and artillery, ”said the Armenian government’s information center, while assuring that the separatist army kept“ control ”of the situation.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry also reported intense fighting on the front lines on Friday morning and overnight, claiming to have inflicted setbacks on the enemy.
For the first time since the resumption of hostilities on September 27, Baku and Yerevan have nevertheless agreed to conduct negotiations under the aegis of Russian diplomacy.
Vladimir Putin, who met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pachinian, “calls for an end to the fighting in Nagorno Karabakh for humanitarian reasons, with a view to exchanging the bodies of the dead and prisoners “, According to the Kremlin press release announcing these negotiations on Thursday evening.
Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers Zohrab Mnatsakanian and Ceyhun Bayramov confirmed their visit to Moscow on Friday, Russian diplomacy told AFP, adding that “preparations are in full swing”.
Yerevan said his minister was expected in Moscow in the second part of the day, according to the Russian news agency TASS.
The many calls for a truce from the international community have so far gone unanswered.
Since September 27, Armenian separatists from the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh republic and Azerbaijani forces have once again been clashing in this mountainous region.
The official death toll rose Friday morning to more than 400 dead, including 22 Armenian civilians and 31 Azerbaijani. It is however very partial and could be much higher, with each side claiming to have eliminated thousands of enemy soldiers and Baku not giving its military losses.
The fighting has also spread in recent days with shelling in urban areas, each side accusing the other of targeting civilians. According to the separatist authorities, half of the 140,000 inhabitants of Nagorno Karabakh have already been displaced by these clashes.
On Thursday, an emblematic Armenian cathedral was hit twice in a few hours, injuring Russian journalists, one of them very seriously. The Azerbaijani army denied having fired on the building.
Ceyhun Bayramov was already in Geneva on Thursday to meet the OSCE Minsk Group (Russia, France, United States), in charge of international mediation on this conflict dating back more than 30 years, but nothing has filtered out of this meet.
Azerbaijan says it is determined to reconquer Nagorny Karabakh, a separatist region mainly populated by Armenians, by force of arms, and maintains that only a withdrawal of enemy troops would end the fighting.
Abroad, the fear is to see this conflict internationalize in a region where Russians, Turks, Iranians and Westerners all have interests. Especially since Ankara encourages Baku to go on the offensive and Moscow is bound by a military treaty with Yerevan.
Turkey is already accused of participating with men and equipment in hostilities.