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Leaders Of Armenia, Azerbaijan Meet In Switzerland

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian (left) with his and Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev in Bern on December 19.
Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian (left) with his and Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev in Bern on December 19.

The Armenian and Azerbaijani Presidents, Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev, have met in Bern in a bid to settle their longstanding conflict over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The December 19 meeting in the Swiss capital came amid heightened tensions as clashes erupt regularly along the border shared by the two states.

The Azerbaijani and Armenian presidents last met in Paris in October 2014.

The latest talks, which were held under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) Minsk Group, appeared to have made little headway.

"During the meeting, the two sides exchanged views on different aspects of the conflict resolution,” Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian said after the talks. “Unfortunately, the two sides' attitudes don't coincide."

But Nalbandian, who along with his Azerbaijani counterpart joined the talks after the presidents' one-on-one meeting, said it was “extremely important that talks continue as dialogue has no alternative.”

Nalbandian added that the meeting agenda had been "influenced by the escalation of the situation, by Azerbaijani provocations, by blatant violations of the cease-fire."

In a statement, the U.S., Russian, and French mediators said the talks had "created an opportunity for the presidents to clarify their respective positions."

Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter, who hosted the meeting, said the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict “could only be resolved by a comprehensive negotiation process."

Ahead of the meeting, the Minsk Group said it hoped that Sarkisian and Aliyev would agree to boost the cease-fire regime and revive the protracted search for a compromise peace deal.

OSCE mediators recently warned that "the status quo has become unsustainable" over Nagorno-Karabakh.

One Azerbaijani and three Armenian soldiers were killed near Nagorno-Karabakh on December 17 and 18 in an escalation of violence.

Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a bloody conflict over the disputed territory in the 1990s that killed some 30,000 people.

They reached a cease-fire in 1994 over the ethnic Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan, but never signed a lasting peace deal.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and Trend
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