Wednesday, U.S. Insists On ‘De-Escalation’ In Karabakh U.S. - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department, in Washington, October 14, 2020. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday that he will reiterate U.S. calls for a ceasefire in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone when he separately meets with the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Washington on Friday. “Our view remains -- as does the view of nearly every European country -- that the right path forward is to cease the conflict, tell them to de-escalate, that every country should stay out, provide no fuel for this conflict, no weapon systems, no support,” Pompeo told reporters. “And it is at that point that a diplomatic solution that would be acceptable to all can potentially be achieved,” he said. “That’s what I will talk to them about on Friday. And I’m anxious to hear from them what they are seeing on the ground and how we might get closer to what it is that we think is not only in the U.S. best interests but in each of their countries’ interests as well.” Pompeo would not say whether he will try to broker a ceasefire agreement during his talks with Foreign Ministers Zohrab Mnatsakanian of Armenia and Jeyhun Bayramov of Azerbaijan. He noted only that such agreements brokered by Russia and France earlier this month did not stop the hostilities in and around Karabakh. It also remained unclear whether Mnatsakanian and Bayramov could also with each other or hold a trilateral meeting with Pompeo in Washington. The United States, Russia and France have long been leading international efforts to end the Karabakh conflict in their capacity as co-chairs of the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. They have repeatedly issued joint statements calling for an immediate halt to the war that broke out on September 27. Former Armenian Presidents Meet On Karabakh • Astghik Bedevian Armenia -- Former Presidents Levon Ter-Petrosian (L) and Robert Kocharian. Armenia’s former Presidents Levon Ter-Petrosian, Serzh Sarkisian and Robert Kocharian have met for the first time in many years to discuss the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, it was announced on Wednesday. Ter-Petrosian’s spokesman, Arman Musinian, said the meeting was necessitated by the “current worrying situation” in the conflict zone. Musinian said Ter-Petrosian, Sarkisian and Kocharian were joined by two former Karabakh presidents, Arkady Ghukasian and Bako Sahakian. He gave no other details of the meeting. Kocharian’s and Sarkisian’s offices released no statements on it. Ghukasian and Sahakian held on Tuesday separate meetings with Ter-Petrosian and Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian. On Monday Pashinian discussed the hostilities in and around Karabakh with leaders of Armenia’s main opposition parties. Newspaper reports said that they talked about not only the situation on the ground but also possible solutions to the Karabakh conflict that could be proposed by international mediators and Russia in particular. Edmon Marukian, the leader of the opposition Bright Armenia Party, claimed on Wednesday that Pashinian has also held a meeting with at least some of the former Armenian presidents. Pashinian’s press secretary, Mane Gevorgian, did not confirm the claim. “If such a meeting takes place there will definitely be an official statement on it,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. The ex-presidents’ trilateral meeting is noteworthy given the long history of mutual antagonism between Ter-Petrosian on one side and Kocharian and Sarkisian on the other. Ter-Petrosian, who ruled Armenia from 1991-1998, ran in a disputed 2008 presidential election in an unsuccessful bid to prevent the handover of power from Kocharian to Sarkisian. His Armenian National Congress party harshly criticized and challenged Sarkisian during the latter’s decade-long rule. Armenian Leader Sees No ‘Diplomatic Solution’ To Karabakh War ARMENIA -- Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian gives an interview to TASS Russian news agency, in Yerevan, October 19, 2020 Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian urged more Armenians to join their armed forces on Wednesday, saying that Azerbaijan is rejecting any compromise solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and continuing the war in the conflict zone. “We have repeatedly stated that we are ready to resolve the issue through mutual concessions,” Pashinian said in a live address to the nation aired on Facebook. “But what we agree to or would agree to is now not acceptable to Azerbaijan, and this shows that it is meaningless to speak of any diplomatic solution at least at this stage.” He said that Azerbaijan is continuing offensive military operations in and around Karabakh and “throwing its last reserves into the battle” in a bid to defeat the Armenian side. In these circumstances, he said, Armenians have no choice but to keep fighting “until it will be possible to diplomatically achieve some acceptable variant.” Pashinian went on to urge the heads of Armenian local government bodies, political parties and other groups to form volunteer units that will join troops fighting against the Azerbaijani army on the Karabakh frontlines. “If this process is organized effectively, we will eventually manage to achieve a diplomatic solution acceptable to us because in essence Azerbaijan is saying today that it will not agree to anything but Karabakh’s capitulation,” added Pashinian. NAGORNO-KARABAKH -- An Ethnic Armenian soldier is seen at fighting positions on the front line in Nagorno-Karabakh, A senior aide to Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev denounced Pashinian’s remarks, saying they show that Yerevan is not committed to a peaceful resolution of the Karabakh conflict. “With this statement the leadership of Armenia admits that Armenia’s aim is to maintain the occupation of Azerbaijani territory,” Hikmet Hajiyev told the RIA Novosti news agency. Hajiyev insisted that Azerbaijan's position on a Karabakh settlement is “constructive.” But he did not clarify whether Baku supports an unconditional halt to the fighting sought by the Russian, U.S., and French mediators. Pashinian’s appeal came hours after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held separate talks with his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts in Moscow. The Russian Foreign Ministry said the talks focused on the implementation of Armenian-Azerbaijani ceasefire agreements that were reached earlier this month. A ministry statement described the talks as a follow-up to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “telephone contacts” with Pashinian and Aliyev. It reported no concrete understandings reached by the ministers. Hostilities along the Karabakh “line of contact” have continued despite the truce agreements brokered by Russia and France. The conflicting parties accuse each other of violating them. In his remarks, Pashinian praised Russia for “doing its best” to halt the hostilities and revive the Karabakh peace process. Moscow is also fulfilling its role as a “strategic ally of Armenia and the Armenian people,” he stressed. Iran Starts Air Defense Drills As Karabakh Fighting Goes On IRAN -- A Sayyad 2 missile is fired by the Talash air defense system during drills in an undisclosed location in Iran, November 5, 2018 The Iranian military began on Wednesday large-scale air defense exercises amid continuing heavy fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces along Iran’s northwestern border. Iranian media reported that the exercises will cover half of the country and take place as if it is a “real battle.” The Mehr news agency quoted General Abbas Farajpour as saying that Iranian air defense units will practice “protecting the country's strategic sites with the help of homegrown missile, radar and reconnaissance systems as well as electronic warfare, communication and monitoring equipment.” "The first stage of the drill involves the expansion and deployment of defense systems, including missile and radar systems, with a focus on the mobility and rapid response of operational forces,” said Farajpour. An area south of Nagorno-Karabakh and north of Iran is currently the epicenter of the continuing hostilities in the Karabakh conflict zone. The warring sides are using large numbers of soldiers, tanks, artillery and other military hardware there. Missiles fired by opposing sides in the Nagorno-Karabakh war hit a district in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province. Tehran says that dozens of rockets and other projected have mistakenly landed near Iranian border villages since the start of the war on September 27. It has threatened to take “tough measures” if Armenian or Azerbaijani forces continue to accidentally shell Iranian territory. Iranian news agencies reported that a “foreign drone” crashed on Tuesday in Iran’s Khoda Afarin district adjacent to the southern sections of the Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact.” The district governor said that Iranian military experts are examining its wreckage. Another unmanned aerial vehicle was reportedly shot down or crashed last week in Iran’s Ardabil province east of Khoda Afarin. Like other foreign powers, Iran has repeatedly called for an immediate end to the war. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has spoken by phone with the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin. Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL Copyright (c) 2020 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc. 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.