Troops of Azerbaijan and Armenia continue to clash in and around occupied Karabakh, while ongoing talks in Moscow raise hopes of ending the deadliest battles in the South Caucasus for more than 25 years.

Azerbaijani FM Jeyhun Bayramov (L), Russian FM Sergey Lavrov (C), and Armenian FM Zohrab Mnatsakanyan hold talks in Moscow on October 9, 2020.
Azerbaijani FM Jeyhun Bayramov (L), Russian FM Sergey Lavrov (C), and Armenian FM Zohrab Mnatsakanyan hold talks in Moscow on October 9, 2020. (AA)

Top diplomats of Azerbaijan and Armenia are meeting in Moscow as recent fighting over the occupied-Karabakh region enters its 13th day.

The two sides kicked off their first high-level talks on Friday amid hopes that a ceasefire could be brokered.

"It has begun," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said on Facebook, posting a picture of diplomats of Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan sitting at a round table in Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin invited the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan on Thursday, urging a halt in the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh for humanitarian reasons. 

Azerbaijan says 'last chance' for peace

Ahead of crucial talks, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said that Baku was giving Armenia a "last chance" to peacefully resolve their conflict.

"We are giving Armenia a chance to settle the conflict peacefully. This is their last chance," Aliyev said in a televised address to the nation as the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers began Russian-mediated talks.

"We will return our lands in any case. This is their historic chance."

France, which along with Russia and the United States is part of the Minsk Group mediating the two countries' long conflict, said there was a chance of a breakthrough but it was far from certain.

"We are moving towards a truce tonight or tomorrow but it's still fragile," President Emmanuel Macron's office said in a statement to AFP news agency.

READ MORE: Armenia revokes journalist's accreditation over Karabakh reporting

Armenia targeting civilians 

The Moscow meeting comes amid ongoing fighting, with Azerbaijan saying Armenia continued to target civilian settlements on Friday as well.

"Armenia, pursuing an insidious ploy, continues to target districts of Goranboy, Tartar, Aghdam, and Fuzuli," Azerbaijan's Defence Ministry said on Twitter.

"Attempting to make the war spill over into other civilian settlements outside of Karabakh, Armenia continues to commit crimes of humanity and war," it added.

TRT World's Sara Firth reporting from Baku said that "fierce fighting" continued on the frontlines despite a diplomatic push for a ceasefire. 

Armenia is ready to resume internationally mediated talks with Azerbaijan to resolve their decades-long conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said on Friday, ahead of talks in Moscow. 

"We are ready for the resumption of the peace process in accordance with the recent statements of presidents and foreign ministers of the Minsk Group," Pashinyan said, referring to mediation efforts chaired by France, Russia, and the United States.

READ MORE: Azerbaijan, Armenia continue to clash over Karabakh ahead of Geneva meet

Turkey: Ceasefire without Armenia's withdrawal will fail

Aliyev has repeatedly said there would be no halt to fighting until Armenian troops withdraw and vowed to continue the intervention until his army captured all of the occupied Karabakh and other Azerbaijani areas controlled by Armenia.

Azerbaijan's close ally Turkey has backed  Aliyev's stance. Aliyev wants Turkey involved in the talks to resolve the decades-long conflict.

On Friday, Turkish presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin said Ankara wanted a diplomatic solution, but any effort by the Minsk group that did not call for Armenia's withdrawal was bound to fail.

"If they're calling only for a ceasefire, if they're working only towards a ceasefire, it will be nothing more than a repeat of what went on for the last 30 years or so," Kalin told Al Jazeera in an interview.

"It is almost certain to fail if it doesn't also involve a detailed plan to end the occupation."

READ MORE: Azerbaijan demands inclusion of Turkey in Karabakh solution process

Around 400 casualties  

Fighting in one of the most combustible frozen conflicts resulting from the fall of the Soviet Union reignited on September 27, when Armenian forces targeted Azerbaijani civilian settlements and military positions, leading to casualties.

The fresh fighting has claimed some 400 lives and forced thousands of people from their homes.

Azerbaijani authorities said 30 civilians have been killed so far and 143 wounded since last month but have not disclosed information about military casualties.

Armenians said 30 of their servicemen were killed in new clashes, taking its military death toll to 350 so far. It said 19 civilians were killed and many wounded.

Tense ties

Ties between Baku and Yerevan have been tense since 1991 when the Armenian military occupied Upper Karabakh, an internationally recognised territory of Azerbaijan.

Multiple UN resolutions, as well as international organisations, demand the withdrawal of the invading Armenian forces.

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

READ MORE: Armenia threatens global energy supply by attacking Azerbaijani pipelines

Source: TRTWorld and agencies