October 27, 2014 / 11:14 PM / in 3 years

France says Armenia, Azerbaijan to hold more talks on Nagorno-Karabakh

PARIS (Reuters) - Armenian and Azeri leaders have agreed to pursue talks over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region after resuming direct contacts at a meeting in Paris on Monday, the French government said.

Armenia's President Serzh Sargsyan (C) and Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev (R) leave after a dinner with French President Francois Hollande, to discuss the conflict around Nagorno-Karabakh, at the Elysee Palace in Paris October 27, 2014. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

“Status quo is not sustainable,” the office of French President Francois Hollande said after he hosted talks between Azerbaijan’s Ilham Aliyev and Armenia’s Serzh Sargsyan, following an increase in clashes over the region during the summer.

The two leaders agreed to exchange information about people who have gone missing in the fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh, Hollande’s office said.

Fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh first erupted in 1991, when the Soviet Union broke up. A ceasefire was called in 1994 after more than 30,000 people were killed in the fighting. The two sides have regularly traded accusations of further violence around the region and along the Azeri-Armenian border.

The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan “have agreed to continue the dialogue, in particular with a new meeting in September 2015 in the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in New York,” Hollande’s office said.

Energy-producing Azerbaijan, host to oil majors including BP, Chevron and Exxon Mobil, frequently threatens to take Nagorno-Karabakh back by force and is spending heavily on its armed forces.

Russia, like France, is one of the sponsors of international efforts to find a solution to the conflict. In August, Russian President Vladimir Putin had hosted a meeting between the two heads of state, after more than a dozen people were killed in clashes.

The meeting had given him a chance to play a peacekeeping role in the former Soviet Union at a time when the West is accusing Moscow of backing pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.

Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau; Wriing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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