Kremlin calls for calm in Karabakh, says Azerbaijan and Armenia should talk

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Kremlin on Tuesday called for calm in Azerbaijan's breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region after Azerbaijan launched a military operation there, saying that both Baku and Yerevan should sit down to talks to resolve the conflict.

Azerbaijan said it needed to restore constitutional order and drive Armenian military units out of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is largely controlled by ethnic Armenians with Yerevan's support. Armenia, Russia's formal ally, denied having forces in the area.

"We are concerned about the sharp escalation of tension and the beginning of hostilities," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

"The first thing for us, against the background of the military operation carried out by the Azerbaijani Armed Forces, is to ensure the safety of the civilian population of Karabakh."

Peskov said the Russian military had been in contact with both Baku and Azerbaijan and that Moscow was urging talks.

"Our military is working to return the settlement process to the political and diplomatic path," Peskov said, adding that the basis for talks was the ceasefire agreement brokered by Russia that ended a 2020 war in which Azerbaijan made significant gains.

"We urge everyone to follow the provisions of these documents, naturally, taking into account those new realities, meaning the fact that the Armenian side recognised the territory of Azerbaijan as at 1991."

(Reporting by Reuters; editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Kevin Liffey)