Russian Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, said on Thursday that the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the occupied Karabakh territory needs to be resolved peacefully.
"The conflict must be solved not by soldiers but by diplomats. There should not be deaths," Medvedev told a joint press conference alongside his Armenian counterpart Hovik Abrahamyan on an official visit to the Armenian capital, Yerevan.
Karabakh, which lies inside Azerbaijan but has been controlled by pro-Armenians militias since 1993, has run its own affairs with heavy military and financial backing from Armenia since a separatist war that erupted in 1991.
Despite years of negotiations under the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group - consisting of Russia, France and the US - little progress in resolving the dispute and violence has sporadically broken out.
Stating that Russia is ready to help find a solution, Medvedev said, "Russia, as part of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk group, is ready to do its best."
Over the weekend, 12 Azerbaijani troops and more than 100 Armenian soldiers were killed in fighting over the region between Azerbaijani troops and pro-Armenian forces.
The fighting was the worst incident since a peace deal was struck in 1994 over the Azerbaijani enclave.
Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, told reporters in a press conference in Baku on Thursday that Armenia and Azerbaijan were very close to a solution regarding the dispute.
"The constituent parts of the agreement [over the Karabakh issue] are on our desk. We are very close to a solution," he said.
Throughout the day, Lavrov had been participating in a trilateral meeting with his counterparts from Iran and Azerbaijan.
Lavrov also said that he had spoken to Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev and Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov about the Karabakh issue on Wednesday, adding that he will speak to his Armenian counterpart Eduard Nalbandyan on Friday.
Mammadyarov meanwhile called on the Armenian Army to withdraw from the “occupied Azerbaijani territories," while Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said that the issue should be solved under UN principles and international law.
Zarif added that the current ceasefire between Azerbaijan and Armenia should continue until a permanent solution is found.
Re-establishment of ceasefire
Azerbaijan’s Defence Ministry announced the re-establishment of a ceasefire on the contact line between the armed forces of Armenia and Azerbaijan on Tuesday “on the basis of a mutual agreement.”
The announcement came after several European countries and the United States urged the sides to end the fighting.
The conflict between the two countries started with Armenia's territorial claims against Azerbaijan in 1988, during the decline of the Soviet Union, in which both Azerbaijan and Armenia were constituent states.
Karabakh held a referendum in December 1991, in order to create an independent state, which meant a declaration of separation from the Republic of Azerbaijan. The referendum, which was boycotted by most of the local Azerbaijanis’, was claimed to be accepted by the majority of the region.
However, it was stated that the referendum was illegal, according to the Soviet constitution, only its 15 republics could declare independence from the bloc and Karabakh was not a republic.
Pro-Armenian militias then occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan, including the Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts.
The most dramatic massacre in the conflict occurred in February 1992, when Armenian forces back by some CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) soldiers killed at least 161 ethnic Azerbaijani civilians in the Khojaly Massacre.
Today the sides are separated by a demilitarised buffer zone, with both claiming frequent violations by the other.