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Geneva talks aim for Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire

A man walks by his house after shelling in Ganja in the Agdam region of Nagorno Karabakh, 6 October. Credit: Keystone/EPA/Aziz Karimov

Russian, French and U.S envoys met at an undisclosed location as conflict continued to escalate.

France, the United States and Russia met in Geneva on Thursday for talks aimed at ending fighting between Azeri and ethnic Armenian forces in the South Caucasus.

After over a week of fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh , envoys from the three countries met to discuss how to reach a ceasefire and avert war. French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian said representatives from the three countries would also meet in Moscow on Monday to step up efforts to end the conflict.

Azeri foreign minister Jeyhun Bayramov was also due to attend the discussions in Geneva. No direct meetings however have been organised between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

The talks took place as fighting escalated in Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnically Armenian enclave of around 150,000 people inside Azerbaijan. There have been reports of heavy guns and artillery used in the city of Ganja, inside Azerbaijan territory. Ethnic Armenians also reported that Stepanakert, the region's main city, has been shelled by Azeri forces. At least 400 people have been killed since the conflict broke out on 27 September.

France, the US and Russia are co-chairs of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe's (OSCE) Minsk Group that has mediated over Nagorno-Karabakh since 1992. The group has faced criticism from Turkey recently, who accused it of neglecting the conflict. Turkey insisted it should not be involved in mediation, however this was rebuffed by Le Drian who accused Turkey of fuelling what he called the “internationalisation” of the conflict.

Ahead of the talks, a US spokesman said: “The position of the United States has been clear and has not changed: both sides must cease hostilities immediately and work with the Minsk Group co-Chairs to return to substantive negotiations as soon as possible. ”

No press conference has been scheduled to take place following the talks in Geneva, and the location of the meeting was not disclosed.