The foreign ministers of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan were slated to meet in Moscow on Wednesday for discussions of the conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave and a planned meeting this week between the two Caucasus nations' presidents, the Interfax news agency reported.
"Negotiations have intensified noticeably over the past six months," Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov was quoted as saying Tuesday, referring to talks on Nagorno-Karabakh that have been mediated by Russia, the United States and France, AP reports.
The bloodshed began after the legislature of the ethnic Armenian-dominated enclave in Azerbaijan called in 1988 for the region to be incorporated into Armenia, which like Azerbaijan was then still a Soviet republic. Full-scale military offensives broke out in 1991; thousands were killed and a million displaced.
A tense cease-fire has held since 1994 but efforts to finally resolve Nagorno-Karabakh's status have repeatedly failed.
Armenian President Robert Kocharian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliev are scheduled to meet on the sidelines of a summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States in Russia's Volga River city of Kazan on Friday, Interfax said.
An explosion of household gas occurred in a nine-storeyed apartment building in the city of Shakhty, the Rostov region of Russia. The blast destroyed two storeys of the building