US Secretary of State Antony Blinken convened discussions between the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan, congratulating the two states for taking "courageous efforts" toward a lasting peace in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Blinken met with Armenian foreign minister Ararat Mirzoyan and his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov on Monday at Blair House, a state guesthouse in Washington, D.C., only weeks after the worst violence between the two nations since the 2020 war.
"What we are seeing now are real, courageous measures by both countries to put the past behind them and work toward a lasting peace," Blinken stated in his opening remarks to the summit.
The top U.S. ambassador stated that the meetings will build on previous discussions at the United Nations General Assembly in New York and other conversations involving Armenian, Azerbaijani, and American officials.
"As a friend to both Armenia and Azerbaijan, the United States is dedicated to doing all possible to assist you in this endeavor," he said. "Direct discussion is the most effective method for achieving a lasting peace, and we are delighted to support this."
The remainder of the conference took place behind closed doors.
A US official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to the AFP news agency, stated that the conference was less about peace negotiations in the traditional sense and more about creating an opportunity for opposed parties to meet and communicate.
During a summit hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin a week ago, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev "decided not to use force" to resolve their conflict over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
However, in the early hours of Monday, Azerbaijani forces opened fire on Armenian positions in the eastern sector of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, according to a statement from the Armenian defense ministry in Yerevan, which added that no casualties were reported. In the meantime, Azerbaijan's defense ministry accused Armenian forces of firing on Azerbaijani troops stationed in multiple areas along the border.
Monday, Dmitry Peskov, a spokesperson for the Kremlin, urged all sides to avoid acts and steps that could escalate tensions.
The two parties agreed on a European Union mission along their shared border in early October.
In the fall of 2020 and the 1990s, Armenia and Azerbaijan fought two wars over the disputed area of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Six weeks of warfare in 2020 claimed the lives of over 6,500 people before a cease-fire brokered by Russia brought a stop to the hostilities.
Armenia surrendered areas of land it had held for decades under the terms of the 2020 agreement, and Russia deployed forces to monitor the tenuous ceasefire. Since the 2020 conflict, there have been frequent exchanges of fire between Caucasus neighbors.
In September, almost 280 persons on both sides were killed in renewed fighting.
Upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, ethnic Armenian rebels in Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence from Azerbaijan. Approximately 30,000 individuals perished in the ensuing fighting.