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Armenia-Azerbaijan meet set for Bern

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14:35 CET+01:00
The presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia are set to meet in Bern on Saturday in a bid to finally settle their conflict over the breakaway Nagorny Karabakh region, the Swiss government says.

The Swiss department of foreign affairs confirmed on Friday that Armenian President Serzh
Sargsyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev had been invited by Switzerland to meet in Bern on Saturday.
   
The meeting comes amid heightened tensions between the two states, and follows a recent warning from Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) mediators that "the status quo has become unsustainable."
   
Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a bloody conflict over the disputed Nagorny Karabakh territory in the 1990s that killed some 30,000 people.
   
They reached a tenuous ceasefire in 1994 over the ethnic Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan, but they have not signed a peace deal.
   
Clashes still erupt regularly along the border shared by the two ex-Soviet states and across Karabakh's volatile frontline.
   
Raising the spectre of a return to all-out war, both sides reportedly used heavy artillery in tit-for-tat attacks in September.
   
Hiking tensions further, Azerbaijani tanks earlier this month shelled positions in the breakaway region, marking the first time it had done so since the ceasefire was agreed more than 20 years ago.
   
Azerbaijan maintained Armenia had first fired mortar rounds at settlements in Azerbaijan.
   
On Saturday, Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter will welcome the two presidents on behalf of the government, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
   
It stressed though that although Switzerland was acting as host of the summit, it "will not be taking part in the discussions, which will be between Armenia and Azerbaijan only."
   
Explaining the invitation to host the talks in Bern, the ministry pointed out that "the South Caucasus is a priority in Swiss peace policy," pointing out that the wealthy Alpine nation had provided the OSCE with a special representative for the region since 2014.
   
Efforts to resolve the Nagorny Karabakh conflict are coordinated by the OSCE's Minsk Group, co-chaired by Russia, the United States and France.
   
In addition to Azerbaijan and Armenia, the Minsk Group includes Turkey, Italy, Germany, Belarus, Sweden, Finland and the OSCE's rotating Troika, currently made up of Serbia, Germany and Switzerland.

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