Germany hosts peace talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan

Credit: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

BERLIN, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Germany is hosting two days of peace talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia five months after Azerbaijan recaptured its Karabakh region from its ethnic Armenian majority, prompting a mass exodus of ethnic Armenians.

Azerbaijan has been increasingly hostile to outside involvement in brokering an agreement, with President Ilham Aliyev accusing the United States of jeopardising relations by siding with Armenia.

But German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock travelled to the two countries in November. And German Chancellor Olaf Scholz met Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference this month.

In December, the South Caucasus neighbours issued a joint statement saying they want to reach a peace deal.

Christian Armenia and mostly Muslim Azerbaijan first went to war over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh in 1988. After decades of enmity, Azerbaijan in September recaptured Karabakh, controlled by its ethnic Armenian majority since the 1990s despite being internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan.

The offensive prompted most of the region's 120,000 ethnic Armenians to flee to neighbouring Armenia.

Armenia described the offensive as ethnic cleansing. Azerbaijan denied that and said those who fled could have stayed on and been integrated into Azerbaijan.

The German Foreign Ministry is hosting the talks. Baerbock will meet separately with her Azerbaijani and Armenian counterparts on Wednesday before hosting a trilateral meeting.

She is expected to give a statement around 1330 (1230 GMT).

Among the outstanding issues between the two neighbours is the lack of agreement over their shared border, with each holding small enclaves surrounded by the other's territory.

The United States, the European Union and Russia have all tried for decades to mediate between the two sides.

(Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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