Armenia, Azerbaijan Leaders To Meet Amid Recent Fighting

FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, attends talks with Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev, second left, and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, left, at the Kremlin in Moscow, on Jan. 11, 2021. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said Thursday, March 31, 2022 he will meet with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Brussels on April 6 and for talks to end the decades-long conflict over the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, attends talks with Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev, second left, and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, left, at the Kremlin in Moscow, on Jan. 11, 2021. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said Thursday, March 31, 2022 he will meet with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Brussels on April 6 and for talks to end the decades-long conflict over the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) — Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said Thursday he will meet with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Brussels next week to lay the groundwork for peace talks to end the decades-long conflict over the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The two leaders will meet in Brussels on April 6 with European Council President Charles Michel.

There have been recent clashes that have raised concerns about the stability of a cease-fire that ended the 2020 war over the separatist region.

“I hope to discuss at this meeting with the president of Azerbaijan and agree on all issues related to the start of negotiations on a peace agreement,” Pashinyan told a government meeting Thursday. He said Armenia “is ready for the immediate start of peace negotiations.”

Fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces reignited in Nagorno-Karabakh this month, and three soldiers in the breakaway region were killed last week.

More than 6,600 people were killed in the six-week war in 2020 that ended with Azerbaijan reclaiming control over large parts of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas that the Armenia-backed separatists controlled.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in a decades-old dispute over the separatist region, which lies within Azerbaijan but was under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a separatist war there ended in 1994.

The cease-fire in 2020 was mediated by Russia, which then sent some 2,000 troops it called peacekeepers to the region.

Tensions on the two nations’ shared border have been building since May, when Armenia protested what it described as an incursion by Azerbaijani troops into its territory. Azerbaijan has insisted that its soldiers were deployed to what it considers its territory in areas where the border has yet to be demarcated.

Clashes have been reported ever since, and they intensified this month as Russia became increasingly bogged down in its invasion of Ukraine.