It was the foreign ministers' first face-to-face meeting since two days of shelling last week by both sides killed more than 200 troops.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, meets with an Armenian delegation including Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan, third from left, and a delegation with Azerbaijan including Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov, third from right, Monday, Sept. 19, 2022, in New York.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, meets with an Armenian delegation including Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan, third from left, and a delegation with Azerbaijan including Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov, third from right, Monday, Sept. 19, 2022, in New York. (AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has met with the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan in a bid to ease tensions and maintain a fragile ceasefire between the ex-Soviet countries and rivals following the largest outbreak of hostilities in more than two years.

Blinken, on Monday, brought Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov together at a New York hotel on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly. 

It was the foreign ministers' first face-to-face meeting since two days of shelling last week by both sides killed more than 200 troops.

Only Blinken spoke at the start of the meeting at which the Armenian and Azerbaijani delegations sat somberly on opposite sides, separated by US officials.

“We are encouraged by the fact that the fighting has ceased and there has not been” a resumption of shelling, said Blinken, who has spoken several times to the leaders of both countries.

“Strong, sustainable diplomatic engagement is the best path for everyone," he said. “There is a path to a durable peace that resolves the differences.“

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'Open for meetings'

The meeting was held just a day after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Armenia and condemned Azerbaijani attacks, drawing complaints from Baku.

"This is a serious blow to the efforts to normalise relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan," the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Sunday, casting Pelosi's remarks as "Armenian propaganda".

Speaking ahead of Monday's meeting, Bayramov said his country is “satisfied with the level of relations” with the US and said his direct talks with Mirzoyan were not unusual.

“We are always open for meetings," he said.

The two Caucasus countries have been locked in a decades-old conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a region located within Azerbaijan but that had been long under the control of Armenia.

During a six-week war in 2020, Azerbaijan reclaimed broad swaths of Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent territories held by Armenian forces. More than 6,700 people died in that fighting.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have each blamed the other for starting last week's shelling attacks.

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Source: AP