Turkey says Russia to host initial South Caucasus peace meeting Friday


ANKARA (Reuters) - Moscow will host an inaugural meeting of a six-way South Caucasus peace platform on Friday, an idea proposed by Turkey and Azerbaijan following last year's Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.

After six weeks of fighting last year, Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a Russia-brokered ceasefire to end conflict over the region that is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but populated mainly by ethnic Armenians.

The ceasefire locked in territorial gains by Baku, which was backed by Turkey.

The peace platform - including Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Russia, Iran, and Turkey - was proposed by Azeri President Ilham Aliyev and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan after the ceasefire. Ankara, which has no diplomatic ties with Armenia, has said the platform may help normalise ties with Yerevan.

"The first meeting of the regional cooperation platform in the 3+3 format proposed ... for the establishment of lasting peace and stability in the South Caucasus will be held in Moscow on December 10," the foreign ministry said.

It said Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russia, Iran and Turkey will be represented at the deputy foreign ministers level, but did not elaborate on Georgia's participation.

Armenia and Turkey signed a landmark peace accord in 2009 to restore ties and open their shared border after decades, but the deal was never ratified and ties have remained tense. During the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Ankara accused Yerevan of occupying Azeri territories and provided military support for Baku.

Turkey has said it will reciprocate positive steps taken by Armenia to mend ties and has invited Yerevan to join the peace platform since the end of the conflict.

Russia and Turkey jointly operate an observation centre in Nagorno-Karabakh to ensure the ceasefire is maintained.

(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Jonathan Spicer)

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