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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan on Monday in an effort to promote peace between the two former Soviet countries after a new round of border clashes killed more than 200 people.

Blinken gathered Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov at a New York hotel on the sidelines of the United Nations Annual General Assembly. It was their first face-to-face meeting since fighting broke out last week.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, meets an Armenian delegation that includes Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan, third from left, and a delegation with Azerbaijan, including Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov, third from right, on Monday 19 September 2022 in New York.
(Photo AP / Craig Ruttle, Pool)

Blinken, who has spoken several times with leaders of both countries, said the United States was encouraged by a ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan after two days of bombing.

“A strong and sustainable diplomatic commitment is the best path for everyone,” he said. “There is a path to lasting peace that resolves the differences.”

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

The conflict centers on the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which is ethnically Armenian but legally belongs to Azerbaijan, a situation that has resulted in decades of violence.

The meeting came after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi condemned Azerbaijan’s attacks on Armenia as “illegal” at a Sunday press conference with Armenian officials. The Azerbaijani government, in turn, rejected Pelosi’s comments as “Armenian propaganda”.

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The latest round of fighting is the worst since 2020, when, during a six-week war, Azerbaijan claimed large swaths of Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent territories held by the Armenian forces. More than 6,700 people died in those fighting.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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