(Reuters) – Armenia and Azerbaijan on Wednesday agreed to peace talks to address tensions over the long-disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, which borders both nations, the office of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said.
The European Union, which hosted the meeting between the two former Soviet states, said it hoped the discussions would serve as the first step in a durable peace.
It was the third meeting in six months between Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev after a conflict in 2020 in which Azerbaijan recaptured territory in and around the enclave that the Armenians had held for decades.
Pashinyan’s office said the two men had agreed that by the end of April they would set up a bilateral commission.
“The Prime Minister of Armenia and the President of Azerbaijan instructed their foreign ministers to begin preparations for peace talks,” it said in a statement.
There was no immediate comment from Azerbaijan.
European Council President Charles Michel, who helped facilitate Wednesday’s meeting, said he hoped the talks would help bring together the two sides.
“I am confident that tonight we took an important step in the right direction. It doesn’t mean that everything is solved, of course,” he told reporters in Brussels.
Both Russia and the United States had expressed concern about recent developments.
Last month, Armenia accused Azerbaijani forces of firing on residents inside Nagorno-Karabakh and said three people died. Azerbaijan said it was responding to movements by what it calls illegal armed groups.
Armenia said it expected Russia to make Azerbaijan withdraw troops from an area policed by Russian peacekeepers. Azerbaijan said the area was its sovereign territory.
Pashinyan’s office said the two sides agreed to create “a bilateral commission on the delimitation of the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which will also be authorized to deal with questions of ensuring security and stability along the border.” It did not give details.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren and Ron Popeski; Editing by Leslie Adler and Gerry Doyle)