WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Azerbaijan to stop military operations along its border with Armenia when he spoke with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev hours after the outbreak of fierce fighting there early on Tuesday.

Blinken also had a phone call with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan before issuing a statement that called for an immediate end to the hostilities involving artillery and combat drones.

“Secretary Blinken urged President Aliyev to cease hostilities and stressed that the United States would push for an immediate halt to fighting and a peace settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan,” said Ned Price, the U.S. State Department spokesman.

By contrast, Blinken was reported to have “stressed the need for disengagement of military forces” during the call with Pashinyan. The latter has repeatedly advocated mutual troop withdrawals since May 2021.

Blinken mentioned “shelling in Armenia” during both conversations, a further indication that Washington holds Baku primarily responsible for the escalation that left at least 100 Armenian and Azerbaijani soldiers dead. He similarly singled out “reported strikes against settlements and civilian infrastructure inside Armenia” in a statement issued after the calls.

“I’ll be in close touch with [Aliyev and Pashinyan] going forward, and my hope is that we can move this from conflict back to the negotiating table and back to trying to build a peace,” Blinken told reporters later on Tuesday.

The top U.S. diplomat also expressed hope that Russia will “use its own influence” on Armenia and Azerbaijan to “calm the waters” and “end the violence” in the conflict zone.

Russia brokered overnight a ceasefire agreement which was due to take effect in the morning. However, fighting at various sections of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border continued in the following hours, with each side accusing the other of not complying with the deal.

Still, the Armenian Defense Ministry said that the intensity of the hostilities “eased considerably” by 9 p.m. local time.

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