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Armenia, Azerbaijan FM Open Nagorno-Karabakh Talks In Moscow

Foreign Ministers Elmar Mammadyarov (right) of Azerbaijan and Zohrab Mnatsakanian (second from right) of Armenia pose for a photograph with the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs in New York in September 2018.

The Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers have started talks in Moscow on the conflict over Azerbaijan's breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The talks between Zohrab Mnatsakanian and Elmar Mammadyarov are hosted by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and will be "devoted to issues concerning the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement," Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Mnatsakanian and Lavrov held a one-one-one meeting in Moscow earlier on April 15, it said.

Igor Popov, Stephane Visconti, and Andrew Schofer -- the Russian, French and U.S. co-chairs of the OSCE's Minsk Group set up to mediate a solution to the conflict -- are also taking part in the discussions, which are held behind closed doors, it said.

Nagorno-Karabakh, which is populated mainly by ethnic Armenians, declared independence from Azerbaijan amid a 1988-94 war that claimed an estimated 30,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

Since 1994, it has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces that Baku says include troops supplied by Armenia.

The region's claim to independence has not been recognized by any country.

Internationally mediated negotiations involving the Minsk Group helped forge a cease-fire in the region that is not always honored.

There has been a significant decrease in cease-fire violations around Nagorno-Karabakh and along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border in recent months.

However, the negotiations have failed to produce a lasting settlement of the conflict so far.

On March 29 in Vienna, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev held their first meeting under the auspices of the Minsk Group.

Yerevan and Baku described the talks as "positive" and "constructive," saying the sides had agreed to strengthen the cease-fire regime in the conflict zone and continue their dialogue.

The summit was Pashinian's and Aliyev's fourth face-to-face encounter in six months.