(Washington) The United States is hosting difficult peace talks in Washington on Monday between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed enclave of Nagorny Karabakh.

The discussions, under the aegis of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, are supposed to last until Thursday in the presence of the heads of diplomacy of the two countries, the Armenian Ararat Mirzoyan and the Azerbaijani Djeyhoun Baïramov.

The two Caucasian countries clashed in two wars in the early 1990s and in 2020 for control of Nagorny Karabakh, a mountainous region mostly populated by Armenians that seceded from Azerbaijan three decades ago.

Tensions, already high, redoubled when Baku announced ten days ago that it had set up a first road checkpoint at the entrance to the Lachin corridor, the only axis linking Armenia to the separatist enclave already subject to a months-long blockade that caused power shortages and blackouts.

Armenia considered this a violation of the ceasefire negotiated with Azerbaijan.

These negotiations under American mediation come a few days after a tour of the region last week by the head of French diplomacy, Catherine Colonna.

She urged Azerbaijan to immediately restore “unhindered traffic along the Lachin Corridor”, a vital route in this enclave of Nagorny Karabakh, and said she believed in a peaceful settlement despite deep differences between the belligerents.

Mr. Blinken, who is also particularly active on this file, was to meet Monday behind closed doors with the protagonists gathered in a conference center on behalf of former Secretary of State George Shultz, near the federal capital.

A U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity said Monday he expected “frank discussions.”

“Our goal is to make sure ministers sit down at the table and talk to each other” for several days, he added, in an attempt to achieve “a just and lasting peace.” “.

The negotiations relate specifically to “an agreement on the normalization of relations” between the two countries, he further indicated, stressing that “all issues are discussed”.

Blinken, who has been advocating for “direct dialogue” for months, discussed US support for the Armenia-Azerbaijan peace process in separate conversations with their leaders over the weekend. .

To Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, he “expressed the deep concern of the United States over Azerbaijan’s erection of a roadblock at the entrance to the Lachin Corridor that could undermine efforts to build confidence in the peace process,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement.

Mr. Blinken “stressed the importance of reopening the Lachin Road to commercial and private vehicles as soon as possible,” the statement added.

He told Mr Aliyev of “his belief that peace is possible”.

The day before, Mr. Blinken had also spoken with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, the State Department said.

The head of American diplomacy has maintained contact at regular intervals with the leaders of the two countries.

He has already participated in two trilateral meetings last November, then last February on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, without these discussions leading to an agreement.

For its part, Russia deployed in 2020 in Nagorny Karabakh a contingent of peacekeepers supposed to ensure circulation on the Lachin corridor, but its isolation on the international scene due to the war in Ukraine limits its room for maneuver.

The United States and the European Union have thus imposed themselves as mediators in the process of normalization between Baku and Yerevan.