Armenia has said it is prepared to work with international mediators to reach a ceasefire with Azerbaijan as the two rivals fight over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region, where fierce clashes spilled into a sixth day.
On Thursday, leaders of Russia, France and the United States co-chairs of the so-called Minsk Group, which was set up by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in 1992 to resolve the conflict issued a joint statement calling for an immediate cease-fire and "resuming substantive negotiations ... under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs."
Armenia "stands ready" to engage with France, Russia and the United States, who co-chair the OSCE group of mediators to the conflict, "to re-establish a ceasefire regime", the Armenian foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday.
However, the statement added that "this aggression against Nagorno-Karabakh will continue to receive our strong and resolute response".
The development came after ethnic Armenian officials in the breakaway Nargorno-Karabakh region reported another 54 military casualties among Armenian-backed troops, bringing the death toll to 158 soldiers, Al Jazeera reported.
The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said late Friday "the Minsk Group, in its many statements, underlined the unacceptability of the status quo. However, acting regardless of this, Armenia aims to strengthen the status quo regime based on occupation."
Azerbaijan foreign minister statement went to say: To date, Armenia has not complied with the requirements of numerous decisions adopted by international organizations, including, first of all, those reflected in the UN Security Council Resolutions 822, 853, 874 and 884 of 1993, regarding the withdrawal of Armenian occupying forces from all occupied territories of Azerbaijan. On the contrary, acting in an atmosphere of impunity, Armenia is undertaking new acts of aggression against Azerbaijan. The political and military leadership of Armenia bears full responsibility for the existing situation in the region."
While Armenia's statement marks the first sign that dialogue could be possible, Turkey's foreign minister said that for Azerbaijan to agree to a ceasefire, Armenia must withdraw its forces.
Speaking at a joint news conference with his Italian counterpart Luigi Di Maio, Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Friday that the deadlock "encourages Armenia to attack and illegally settle Armenian people to territories of another country".
"If the international community wants to do something about Upper Karabakh, they should get Armenia to leave Azerbaijani lands at once," Cavusoglu said, adding that Turkey will support any effort in this direction.
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Azerbaijan a "brotherly state" on Friday and said its offensive in the separatist region aimed "to defend its own lands and to liberate Nagorno-Karabakh, which is under occupation."
"With all our capability and all our heart, we will continue to be by Azerbaijan's side," Erdogan said, speaking at the opening of a hospital in the town of Konya in central Turkey. "God willing, this struggle will continue until Nagorno-Karbakh is saved from occupation."
On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke with the Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan by phone for the third time this week, and both "expressed serious concern" about reports that fighters from the Middle East were involved in the conflict, the Associated Press reported.
"Vladimir Putin once again emphasized the necessity of immediate cessation of hostilities and resumption of politico-diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict, in line with the statement by presidents of countries that co-chair the OSCE Minsk Group," the Kremlin's readout of the call said.
Russia's foreign ministry said Thursday that fighters from Syria and Libya were being deployed to the Nagorny Karabakh conflict and that it was "deeply concerned" by the development.
"Fighters of illegal armed groups including from Syria and Libya are being deployed to the Nagorny Karabakh conflict zone in order to directly take part in fighting," the AFP quoted the foreign ministry as saying.
"We are deeply concerned by these processes which not only escalate tensions in the conflict zone further but create long-lasting threats to security for all countries in the region."