France’s Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna began a visit to Azerbaijan on Wednesday to hold talks with longtime leader Ilham Aliyev on easing tensions with Baku’s arch-foe and Caucasus neighbor Armenia.
Baku and Yerevan have been locked for decades in a territorial conflict over Azerbaijan’s Armenian-majority region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Colonna’s trip comes as both Western nations and Russia -- which has traditionally mediated the conflict -- accused Azerbaijan of violating the Moscow-brokered ceasefire that ended a 2020 war with Armenia.
Tensions flared again this week, with Baku setting up a checkpoint on the only land link between Armenia and Karabakh.
Colonna is due to hold talks with Aliyev -- who became president after his father’s death in 2003 -- and her Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov.
France has moved to make efforts to mediate the conflict in recent months, with Russia distracted by its Ukraine offensive.
A French diplomatic source said the visit was important but was taking place in a “tense” context, describing relations with Baku as “difficult in recent months.”
After visiting Baku, Colonna will travel to Yerevan before making her way to Georgia’s capital Tbilisi on Friday.