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AKIPRESS.COM - President of Russia Vladimir Putin will host talks this week between the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan in a bid to quell a surge of violence over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, ReliefWeb reports.
At least 18 Azerbaijanis and ethnic Armenians have died in recent days in the most serious bout of hostilities over the breakaway region in two decades.
Foreign Minister of Russia Sergei Lavrov said Putin will host separate meetings with Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev and Armenia's President Serzh Sargsyan before convening trilateral talks in Sochi.
Lavrov added the meetings would take place at the end of the week. “How this will be organized will depend on the leaders themselves,” he said. “Both sides perceive the conflict rather emotionally.”
The talks follow fresh border clashes last week between Azerbaijani and ethnic Armenian troops over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region – a majority Armenian territory of Azerbaijan that is de facto independent – reviving fears of a new full-scale conflict between the two Caucasus nations.
The most recent casualty, a 40-year-old soldier, was killed in the region Monday after being shot by an Azerbaijani sniper, according to the Armenian Defense Ministry.
International mediators Russia, France and the United States, which have for years tried to broker peace between the two countries, have expressed concern over the violence.
Armenian-backed separatists seized Nagorno-Karabakh from Azerbaijan in a 1990s war that claimed 30,000 lives.
Despite years of negotiations since the 1994 ceasefire, the two sides have yet to sign a peace deal.
Azerbaijan has threatened to retake the region by force if negotiations do not yield results, while Armenia has vowed to retaliate against any military action.