Washington. US Defense Secretary Mark Esper and his French counterpart Florence Parly spoke by phone on Friday about the need for a ceasefire in Nagorno Karabakh, where fighting continues between Azerbaijani forces and Armenian separatists.
Esper and Parly “agreed that the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan must fulfill their promises of an immediate ceasefire in the Nagorno-Karabakh region and of a peaceful solution” to the conflict, a Pentagon statement said.
The United States and France have been mediators of the conflict since 1994, together with Russia, within the framework of the Minsk Group.
Nagorno Karabakh, a territory of mainly Armenian population, separated from Azerbaijan shortly before the breakup of the USSR in 1991, sparking a war that left 30,000 dead and hundreds of thousands of refugees from both camps in the 1990s.
The fighting, which never completely ceased, resumed in late September, with more than 700 dead, according to partial reports, while Turkey, Baku’s main ally, is accused of interference.
Esper and Parly also evoked the situation in the eastern Mediterranean, another region where tensions with Turkey are on the rise, the text added.
Turkey again sent a gas exploration vessel to that area claimed by Greece this week, prompting Germany and France to denounce “unacceptable” provocations by Ankara.
At a time when the release of 200 jihadists in exchange for four Western hostages in Mali left the French military a bitter taste, Esper “thanked the minister for France’s leadership in the fight against terrorism,” the statement said.
“He also expressed the hope that more European countries will support France’s efforts in the Sahel,” the Pentagon said, not mentioning the US plan to reduce its military involvement in Africa.
Some 5,100 French soldiers are deployed to Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso as part of Operation Barkhane to contain the jihadists.
Washington brings intelligence and surveillance to that operation through its drones as well as in-flight refueling and logistics transportation, at a cost of 45 million dollars per year.