US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is scheduled to meet the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia on Friday in a fresh attempt to end nearly a month of bloodshed, in which hundreds have been killed.
But hours before talks were due to start in Washington, DC, Azerbaijani and ethnic Armenian forces clashed again in the fight over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region.
The collapse of two Russia-brokered ceasefires has dimmed hopes of a quick end to fighting that broke out on September 27 over the territory, which is within Azerbaijan but is controlled by ethnic Armenians.
In the latest battles, Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defence reported fighting in several areas, including territories close to the line of contact that divides the sides.
Armenia’s Ministry of Defence also reported fighting in several areas and said the town of Martuni in Nagorno-Karabakh was shelled overnight.
“I very much hope that our American partners will act in unison with us and will help the settlement,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday, adding that he speaks to leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan several times a day by phone.
Dozens of civilians on both sides have died along with more than 700 Armenia-backed soldiers. Azerbaijan does not disclose its military death toll.
However, it is widely understood that the death tolls are higher than what has been reported.
Putin estimated on Thursday that almost 5,000 people have been killed in the fighting so far.
“There are many losses on both sides,” he said.French President Emmanuel Macron held a previously unannounced meeting with Armenian President Armen Sarkissian in Paris on Thursday. He said only a diplomatic solution to the crisis would be acceptable.