YEREVAN — Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan accused Azerbaijan on Saturday of avoiding peace talks with Armenia and planning instead to provoke renewed fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone.

“The use of force and massive crimes cannot resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, as its settlement is possible only through negotiations within the only format – the internationally mandated co-chairmanship of the OSCE Minsk Group,” Pashinyan said on Saturday in Yerevan at a joint press conference with European Council President Charles Michel.

“Armenia is prepared for the resumption of negotiations but there has been no reaction from Azerbaijan,” Pashinyan said after talks with  Michel.

“And according to information obtained from unofficial sources, Azerbaijan is intent on provoking new military clashes in Karabakh and along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. We are now seeing manifestations of that at a Nakhichevan section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border,” he told a joint news conference with Michel.

Pashinyan referred to recent days’ shootouts between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces deployed near an Armenian village bordering Azerbaijan’s Nakhichevan exclave. One Armenian soldier was killed there on Wednesday.

The Armenian military said Azerbaijani troops again opened fire on Friday at its border posts in the area about 70 kilometers south of Yerevan.

Pashinyan also called for immediate return without preconditions of the Armenian prisoners of war, hostages and other persons held in Azerbaijan as required by international humanitarian law, as well as the tripartite statement of November 9, 2020.

“I want to emphasize that Azerbaijan’s failure to return prisoners of war, hostages and other detainees is not the only case of its violation of the trilateral statement of November 9,” Pashinyan stressed.

In turn, Michel declared the EU’s readiness to assist the OSCE Minsk Group and called for avoiding aggressive rhetoric.

“As for the prisoners of war held by Azerbaijan, in recent weeks the European Union discussed this issue and the question of minefields with other partners. We hope that it will be possible to move responsibly and positively on this issue,” Michel said.

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