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Putin, Macron Discuss Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict As Armenia Claims Key Stronghold Shelled

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Ethnic Armenian soldiers walk past a house destroyed by shelling by Azerbaijani artillery in Stepanakert, the main city of the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, on November 6.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has discussed the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh with his French and Turkish counterparts as Armenia reported "fierce combat" overnight near a key city in the disputed region.

During a November 7 phone call, Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron expressed serious concern over the large-scale clashes between ethnic Armenian and Azerbaijani forces in the region and the involvement of fighters from Syria and Libya in the conflict, the Kremlin said in a statement.

The presidents said they would continue coordinated mediation efforts, including through the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) Minsk Group, set up in 1992 to seek a peaceful resolution. The Minsk Group is co-chaired by Russia, France, and the United States.

Later in the day, Putin spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who told the Russian leader that Armenia must withdraw from Azerbaijani lands and "sit down at the negotiating table," according to a statement from Ankara.

Clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenian-backed separatists over control of Nagorno-Karabakh, a region that proclaimed its independence from Baku during a war in the 1990s, broke out in late September.

At least 1,000 people and possibly many more have died in the nearly six weeks of fighting, representing the deadliest outbreak of hostilities over the region in more than a quarter-century. Several attempts to declare a cease-fire have failed.

Turkey has been accused of sending mercenaries to Karabakh to support Azerbaijan in its fight against the separatists. Analysts say Ankara wants a seat at the negotiating table that has long been dominated by Moscow.

Armenia has turned to its traditional ally, Russia, for help. Armenia is a member of the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization military alliance.

Earlier in the day Armenia said that numerous overnight attacks by Azerbaijani forces outside the town of Shushi (Susa in Azeri), a key stronghold in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, had been thwarted.

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry called the claims it was shelling Shushi "completely untrue."

The hilltop town of Shushi is located on a main road that links the breakaway region's capital of Stepanakert with the territory of Armenia, which backs the separatists fighting for Karabakh's independence.

Clashes broke out on September 27 between Azerbaijan and Armenian-backed separatists over control of Karabakh, a region that proclaimed its independence from Baku during a war in the 1990s.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AFP
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