(Reuters) – Armenia and Azerbaijan hurled fresh accusations at each other two days before new talks aimed at clinching a peace accord to resolve decades of disputes over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The ex-Soviet states have fought two wars over the region, recognised as part of Azerbaijan but populated mainly by ethnic Armenians. Azerbaijan recaptured in 2020 chunks of territory lost in a conflict as Soviet rule collapsed in the early 1990s.

Peace talks had appeared to be making progress in recent weeks, with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan acknowledging Azerbaijan’s control over Karabakh.

But Armenia accused Azerbaijan on Monday of threatening to resort to force after Azeri President Ilham Aliyev demanded the dissolution of Karabakh’s “separatist” local government.

An Armenian Foreign Ministry statement, reported by the Armenpress news agency, said Aliyev was making “genocidal threats” and “preparing the ground for another aggressive action against the population of Nagorno-Karabakh”.

Tension had been rising despite the peace talks over Azerbaijan’s setting up of a checkpoint last month to the Lachin corridor – the only route linking Armenia with the territory. Border clashes are frequent.

Aliyev, speaking on Sunday in the town of Lachin, said it was time, after Azerbaijan’s successes in the 2020 war, for Armenians to abandon their “illusions” of Karabakh independence.

“That means abiding by the laws of Azerbaijan, becoming normal, loyal citizens, tossing false state symbols onto the rubbish heap and dissolving the so-called parliament,” Aliyev said in an address shown on Azeri state television.

Since the six-week 2020 conflict, ended by a Russian-brokered truce, Pashinyan and Aliyev have held several meetings, staged by Moscow, the European Union and the United States.

The two men met last week in Moscow, where Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin said he believed the two sides were making progress towards clinching a long-term peace deal.

On Wednesday, they are due to meet again at an EU development meeting in Moldova to be attended by leaders from more than 40 states as well as European institutions.

Karabakh remains the focus of their long-running dispute along with demarcation of their border, return of prisoners and establishment of trade “corridors” running through each other’s territory.

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