Azerbaijan, Armenia agree to meet in person for talks in Brussels

Ilham Aliyev, Nikol Pashinyan set for meeting on sidelines of Eastern Partnership Summit that starts on Dec. 15

The presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia will meet in Brussels in mid-December for talks to defuse escalating tensions amid recurring border clashes, the European Union said on Friday.

Ilham Aliyev and Nikol Pashinyan “agreed to meet in Brussels to discuss the regional situation and ways of overcoming tensions for a prosperous and stable South Caucasus, which the EU supports,” read a statement.

The breakthrough came after Charles Michel, president of the European Council, spoke to the duo over the phone on Friday “in follow up to discussions earlier this week on the situation in the region and in the context of preparations of the Eastern Partnership Summit (EaP).”

Michel will host Aliyev and Pashinyan “for a meeting in Brussels in the margins of the EaP Summit” that will be held on Dec. 15, the statement said.

“The Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders have also agreed to establish a direct communication line, at the level of respective Ministers of Defence, to serve as an incident prevention mechanism,” it added.

The two former Soviet republics have engaged in deadly border clashes over recent days, with Armenian forces killing seven Azerbaijani soldiers and wounding 10 others earlier this week.

They have had tense relations since 1991, when Armenia occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Upper Karabakh, a territory internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, and seven adjacent regions.

They were embroiled in a 44-day conflict over the region last year from September to Nov. 10, when the fighting ended with an agreement brokered by Russia.

During the face-off, Azerbaijan managed to liberate several cities and 300 settlements and villages that were illegally occupied by Armenia for almost 30 years.

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