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Geneva to host talks on Karabakh ceasefire on Thursday: France

The Swiss city of Geneva will host the first round of talks aimed at convincing the Azerbaijan Republic and Armenia to agree on a ceasefire to the ongoing war over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, the French foreign minister says.

Jean-Yves Le Drian announced on Wednesday that the talks would be held in Geneva on Thursday and in Moscow on Monday without any preconditions.

These negotiations, he said, will try to convince warring sides in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to agree to negotiate a ceasefire.

Addressing the French parliament’s foreign affairs committee, Le Drian said the talks will be organized by France, Russia and the United States, the three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group.

The Group was formed in 1992 to find a peaceful solution to the Karabakh conflict, but to no avail. A ceasefire, however, was agreed upon in 1994.

France, Russia and NATO, among others, had earlier called for an immediate halt to the ongoing clashes in the region.

On Monday, the foreign ministers of the US, France and Russia condemned the “unprecedented and dangerous escalation of violence” between Armenia and Azerbaijan, calling for the parties to institute a ceasefire.

In a joint statement the top officials stressed “unconditionally that recent attacks allegedly targeting civilian centers – both along the Line of Contact and on the territories of Azerbaijan and Armenia outside the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone – and the disproportionate nature of such attacks constitute an unacceptable threat to the stability of the region.”

“The Ministers call once again upon the conflicting parties to accept an immediate and unconditional ceasefire,” the ministers said.

“The Co-Chairing countries are determined to exercise fully their mandate, entrusted to them by the OSCE and the international community, with the contribution of the Minsk Group capitals. As such, they will firmly continue to advance their engagement with the sides, and urge them to commit now to resuming the settlement process on the basis of existing core principles and relevant international documents well-known by both parties,” they added.

Fighting between Azeri and Armenian forces over the disputed territory has escalated, with the two sides accusing each other of bombing civilian areas and extending the fighting to areas outside the conflict zone.

Armenia claimed on Tuesday that Azerbaijani forces had launched a major offensive in the southern part of the line of contact.

Ethnic Armenian officials in Nagorno-Karabakh also said four cluster bombs had exploded in the center of Stepanakert.

Azerbaijan claimed its cities outside the conflict zone had been struck, taking the fighting closer to territory from which pipelines carry Azeri gas and oil to Europe.

Both sides said the other had hit civilian areas. Each denied targeting civilians.

The recent clashes, the worst in decades, erupted on September 27, with each side accusing the other of instigating the fighting.

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