Azeri president says Armenians can have ‘cultural autonomy’

Azeri President Ilham Aliyev has said he would not rule out what he termed “cultural autonomy” for ethnic Armenians in the mountain enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, Russia’s RIA news agency reported.

Aliyev on Thursday also said he was not against introducing observers and peacekeepers to the region, but that Baku would present its own conditions.

But hopes of ending nearly a month of bloodshed were receding as Azeri and ethnic Armenian forces fought new battles, on the eve of talks in Washington.

Azerbaijan’s defence ministry on Thursday accused Armenia of firing several ballistic missiles from its territory at the Azerbaijani cities of Gabala, Siyazan and Kurdamir, which are located far from the area of fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh. It said there were no casualties.

The Armenian military rejected the claim as a “cynical lie”.

Azeri and Armenian foreign ministers are expected to hold talks on Friday with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in separate meetings.

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