Pompeo presses Armenian, Azerbaijani leaders on ceasefire

Washington (AFP) –


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia to abide by a US-brokered ceasefire that quickly unraveled, the State Department said Tuesday.

In separate phone calls with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Pompeo "pressed the leaders to abide by their commitments to cease hostilities and pursue a diplomatic solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict," the State Department said.

Pompeo's deputy, Stephen Biegun, met separately in Washington over the weekend with the two nations' foreign ministers who agreed to a third ceasefire to halt a month of fighting that has left hundreds dead.

But less than an hour after the humanitarian truce was due to begin at 8:00 am (0400 GMT) on Monday, the two countries accused each other of violations.

Pompeo told the two leaders that "there is no military solution to this conflict," the State Department statement said.

The former Soviet republics have been locked in a bitter conflict since the 1990s after Armenian separatists backed by Yerevan seized control over the mountainous province of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The international community continues to recognize the area as part of Azerbaijan despite Armenia's claims.

The United States is one of three members of the "Minsk Group" in charge of diplomacy on Nagorno-Karabakh along with Russia and France.

Armenia has a large and politically active diaspora in the United States, which also has growing strategic ties with Azerbaijan, a major oil producer and a rare Muslim-majority nation that is friendly with US ally Israel.