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Armenian PM rules out diplomatic solution to Karabakh conflict

Announcement deals blow to efforts by world powers to secure sustainable truce

By AFP - Oct 21,2020 - Last updated at Oct 21,2020

An elderly man carrying bags with food walks at the almost empty city of Stepanakert on Wednesday, during the ongoing fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh (AFP photo)

YEREVAN — Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on Wednesday ruled out a diplomatic solution to the conflict with Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, dealing a fresh blow to efforts by world powers to secure a sustainable truce.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been engaged in fierce fighting for almost a month over Karabakh, a region of Azerbaijan controlled by Armenian separatists in the wake of the break-up of the Soviet Union.

The flare-up of the conflict has left hundreds dead, with world powers so far unable to persuade either side to stop fighting.

The Karabakh conflict "has not... and will not have a diplomatic solution for a long time", Pashinyan said in a video message on Facebook.

He called on Armenians to volunteer for fighting on the front, acknowledging that his country faces "a difficult situation" on the battlefield.

"There is victory and there is defeat, there is no middle ground," he added.

"To win, we must all form volunteer units and operate under the control of the commander-in-chief."

He indicated that negotiations on the status of Karabakh were for now pointless, accusing Baku of not wanting to compromise.

"Experience has shown that everything acceptable for the Armenian side... is no longer acceptable for Azerbaijan."

"What we agree with, Azerbaijan no longer agrees with. This shows that it is generally meaningless to talk about any diplomatic solution, at least at this stage," Pashinyan added.

Azerbaijan and the Armenian separatists who control Karabakh have been locked in a bitter impasse over the fate of the mountainous province since a war in the 1990s that left 30,000 people dead.

Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev has said there can only be a ceasefire when Armenia pulls out from Karabakh and all the surrounding regions of Azerbaijan held by Armenian forces.

However, Pashinyan has repeatedly urged international recognition of Karabakh, claiming its inhabitants would not be safe under Azerbaijani rule.

His comments came as Russia hosted the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan for separate talks this week in a new bid to find a lasting truce.

Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov and his Armenian counterpart Zohrab Mnatsakanyan were also due to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday. However, no trilateral meetings are taking place.

A truce was agreed in Moscow earlier this month after 11 hours of talks, but the accord had next to no impact on the ground.

A second ceasefire agreed Saturday fell apart almost immediately.

Yerevan says more than 800 Armenian soldiers and 36 civilians have been killed in the flare-up of fighting.

Baku has reported 63 civilian casualties but has yet to disclose military losses.

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