Putin, Erdogan urge Armenia-Azerbaijan peace talks

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan attend a news conference at the Presidential Palace in Ankara December 1, 2014. REUTERS/Umit Bektas (TURKEY – Tags: POLITICS)

YEREVAN, Armenia (RAHNUMA):  Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a phone call Monday called for peace talks to end clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the Kremlin said.

The phone call at Turkey’s initiative took place after Armenia’s military said one of its soldiers was killed by sniper fire from across the border with Azerbaijan in the latest bout of deadly violence.

Border clashes erupted in mid-July between the ex-Soviet republics, which have for decades been locked in a conflict over Azerbaijan’s breakaway region of Nagorny Karabakh.

Nineteen people — including the Armenian soldier — have been killed on both sides in the recent border clashes so far.

Putin and Erdogan discussed the conflict and the Russian strongman “underlined the importance of not allowing any actions that promote an escalation in tensions,” the Kremlin said in a statement.

Regional powerbroker Moscow as well as Western powers have called for an immediate de-escalation amid fears that Russia and Turkey, which supports Azerbaijan, could be drawn into a confrontation.

Both Putin and Erdogan said they backed “resolving the conflict situation exclusively in a peaceful way, through talks.”

Russia has offered to mediate peace talks between the South Caucasus countries.

Putin and Erdogan said the dispute must be settled “on the basis of international law in the interests of the peoples of Armenia and Azerbaijan,” the Kremlin said.

Armenia’s defense ministry on Monday said that one of its troops was “killed by sniper fire from the direction of the enemy” overnight — after a week of relative calm on the border.

Azerbaijan for its part accused Armenia of using “large calibre machine guns and sniper rifles” and violating a cease-fire multiple times along the border over the past 24 hours.

The uptick in violence has been unusual as it broke out hundreds of kilometers (miles) from Karabakh, Azerbaijan’s southwestern region seized by ethnic Armenian separatists in a 1990s war that claimed 30,000 lives.

The recent violence has included artillery shelling and mortar fire, with both sides blaming one another and Azerbaijan threatening to strike Armenia’s nuclear power station if its strategic facilities were attacked.

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