MOSCOW — After what the Kremlin described as a series of phone calls with the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged the warring sides in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict on Thursday night to stop hostilities.
In a written statement, Putin said they should do so “for humanitarian considerations with the aim of exchanging prisoners and the bodies of dead soldiers.”
“The foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan are invited to Moscow on October 9 for holding consultations on these issues mediated by the Russian Foreign Minister [Sergei Lavrov,]” concluded the statement.
Yerevan and Baku did not immediately react to the extraordinary appeal.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry said earlier on Thursday that face-to-face talks between Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov are “not yet planned in any format.”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova announced afterwards that Lavrov has offered to host a trilateral meeting with Mnatsakanian and Bayramov. She said the Russian, U.S. and French mediators co-heading the OSCE Minsk Group would also be in attendance.
“We are holding consultations with the parties regarding possible dates for the start of negotiations in this format,” Zakharova told journalists.
Putin issued his statement a few hours later.
Mnatsakanian was scheduled to travel to Moscow for an official visit on Monday. For his part, Bayramov was due to meet with the Minsk Group co-chairs in Geneva on Thursday.
The three world powers leading the group have persistently pressed the parties to restore a ceasefire regime since the large-scale hostilities in the Karabakh conflict zone broke out on September 27. Unlike Azerbaijan, Armenia has backed their calls for an unconditional halt to the fighting that has left hundreds of soldiers dead.
As recently as on Wednesday, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev continued to make the ceasefire conditional on Armenia presenting a “timetable for withdrawing its troops from the occupied territories.” Yerevan has rejected this precondition.