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German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock urged Armenia and Azerbaijan to return to the negotiating table and seek a political solution to their decades-old conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

“There is no other path to long-term peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan than the negotiating table,” says Baerbock said on November 3 during a visit to Yerevan.

Mediation efforts led by European Council President Charles Michel “constitute a bridge that can show the quickest path to peace,” Baerbock said after a meeting with Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan.

Yerevan and Baku have made progress on the various issues, including demarcation, she said, and this has “raised hope that you can reach a peaceful solution.”

Mirzoyan acknowledged Germany’s efforts to achieve peace in the region, but also said Azerbaijan had broken its promise not to engage in hostilities.

“Armenia has the will to take the path of peace in the region,” he said, but he also highlighted humanitarian issues, Armenian prisoners of war and the need to recognize the territorial sovereignty of both country.

Baerbock is in the Caucasus for a two-day visit that comes six weeks after a lightning offensive by Azerbaijani forces that retook territory in Nagorno-Karabakh after decades in which ethnic Armenians backed by Yerevan controlled Azerbaijani territory.

More than 100,000 ethnic Armenians fled Nagorno-Karabakh for Armenia after the Azerbaijani offensive in mid-September, virtually emptying the territory.

The German Foreign Ministry said Baerbock was scheduled to visit a reception center for Nagorno-Karabakh refugees during his stay in Armenia.

Baerbock will continue on to Baku for a meeting with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Ceyhun Bayramov and other officials.

On November 3, Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Paruyr Hovhannisian hailed Baerbock’s visit to discuss possible peace efforts and to honor the victims of Ottoman-era massacres as “important (and) perhaps historical”.

Hovhannisian told the Armenian parliament that the ruling “shows Germany’s commitment to investing in the (peace) process as an important member of the European Union.”

Hours after his arrival on November 3, Baerbock laid a wreath at a memorial to the victims in the 1915-1916 massacres of more than a million ethnic Armenians by the Ottoman Empire in a tragedy for which Turkey expressed his regrets but resisted recognizing it as a “genocide.”

German lawmakers joined many other countries in 2016 in passing a resolution calling it genocide.

The Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict, which has remained open since the 1990s, has for years threatened to degenerate into war which could lead to the intervention of Russian, Turkish or Iranian forces in an area where Europe and the West also remain strongly engaged.

Nagorno-Karabakh initially came under the control of ethnic Armenian forces, supported by the Armenian army, as the Soviet Union collapsed in separatist fighting that ended in 1994. During a war in 2020, however, Azerbaijan retook parts of Nagorno-Karabakh as well as surrounding territory that Armenian forces had claimed during the previous conflict.

Last month, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev raised his country’s flag in Nagorno-Karabakh’s main city, known as Xankendi to Azeris and Stepanakert to the territory’s ethnic Armenians.

Baerbock’s trip follows comments on November 2 that enlarging the European Union by welcoming more Eastern European countries into the bloc was a geopolitical necessity but would require “profound” reforms of its institutions .

“The big European question of this time is not whether, but how we should make the (European) Union stronger,” Baerbock told a conference in Berlin.

Russian President Vladimir Putin “will continue to try to dig an imperial trench across Europe, which will separate not only Ukraine from us, but also Moldova, Georgia and the Western Balkans,” Baerbock said.

With reporting by dpa

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