U.S. urges Armenia, Azerbaijan to cease hostilities and show restraint

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Second Annual Meeting of the High-Level Economic Dialogue in Mexico

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday he was concerned that Russia could try to "stir the pot" in the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia as the United States urged the two countries to show restraint.

Washington has urged both sides in the conflict to cease hostilities after fighting broke out near the two countries' border.

"Whether Russia tries in some fashion to stir the pot, to create a distraction from Ukraine, is something we're always concerned about," Blinken told reporters at an event in Indiana, adding that Russia could also use its influence in the region to help "calm the waters."

White House spokesman John Kirby said the United States remained deeply concerned about reports of attacks along the countries' border and urged the governments of both countries to re-establish direct lines of communications across diplomatic and military channels.

"We've actively engaged with both the Armenian and the Azerbaijani government to ... see what we can do to end this violence," Kirby told reporters at the White House. "There can be no military solution to this conflict. We urge restraint from any further military hostilities."

Blinken held separate calls overnight with Armenia's prime minister and Azerbaijan's president to express Washington's concerns over fighting along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, the State Department said. He urged Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev to cease hostilities, and said Washington would push for an immediate halt to the fighting, the department said.

(Reporting by Rami Ayyub, Simon Lewis, Steve Holland and Jeff Mason; editing by Jonathan Oatis)