Azeri envoy to France sees chance of Armenia peace deal at Europe summit

FILE PHOTO: Azerbaijan marks anniversary of 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war's end

By John Irish

PARIS (Reuters) - Azerbaijan and Armenia could sign a peace settlement in their decades-old conflict over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh when their leaders meet at a European summit next week, Baku's envoy to France said on Friday.

Up to 47 heads of state, government and EU institutions are expected to attend the summit of the European Political Community (EPC) in Moldova next Thursday, which brings together EU member states and 17 other European countries.

On the sidelines, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azeri President Ilham Aliyev are due to hold high-level talks with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, diplomatic sources said.

"On June 1 in Chisinau we hope that finally a peace treaty can be signed," Leyla Abdoullayeva told a small group of reporters in Paris.

"It's a historic moment and a momentum that can't be missed," she said.

The two leaders met on Thursday in Russia, traditionally the main power broker between the two countries on the southwest edge of the former Soviet Union which have fought two major wars in the last three decades.

But there was no accord at the meeting beyond agreeing to new trilateral talks between officials from the three countries next week.

Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian-populated enclave inside Azerbaijan, has been a source of conflict since the years leading up to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

In 2020, Azerbaijan seized control of areas that had been controlled by ethnic Armenians in and around the mountain enclave, and since then it has periodically restricted access to the only access road linking Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia.

There has been progress lately towards a settlement based on mutual recognition of each other's territorial integrity.

The European Union and the United States have made their own attempts to bring the sides together hoping to take advantage of Russia being distracted by the war in Ukraine.

(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Nick Macfie)