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Armenian, Azerbaijani Leaders Renew Cease-Fire In Nagorno-Karabakh

Baku and Yerevan have been locked in conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh since the waning years of the Soviet Union.

The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan have renewed their commitment to a cease-fire in the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region and to a peaceful settlement of the conflict.

A joint statement by the United States, France, and Russia said Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev also agreed on a next round of talks to be held in a mutually agreed location, with the aim of resuming talks on a comprehensive settlement.

The agreement came after talks with U.S., Russian, and French mediators in Vienna on May 16.

It was the first face-to-face encounter between Aliyev and Sarkisian since a truce in early April halted four days of fierce fighting in and around Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenia-backed separatists and Azerbaijan’s military.

Baku and Yerevan have been locked in conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh since the waning years of the Soviet Union.

Populated mainly by ethnic Armenians, the territory declared independence from Azerbaijan in a 1988-94 war that killed an estimated 30,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands.

On April 2, Nagorno-Karabakh saw its worst violence since a shaky cease-fire was reached in 1994 between Azerbaijan and Armenia-backed separatists.

A fresh Russian-brokered cease-fire deal went into effect on April 5, but the sides in the conflict had been accusing each other of breaching the truce agreement.

About 75 soldiers from both sides were killed in April, along with several civilians.

Seeking to nip the renewed conflict in the bud, the so-called Minsk Group of Russia, France, and the United States invited the two leaders to the Austrian capital.

The joint statement issued after the meeting said the parties also agreed to beef up the cease-fire monitoring mission run by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which currently has only six observers on the front line.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP
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