US Secretary of State Antony Blinken highlighted maintaining peace in his talks Monday with his Azerbaijani and Armenian counterparts in New York, said the State Department.

"Blinken hosted Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov for the first direct talks since recent fighting," spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

"Secretary Blinken conveyed condolences for the lives lost and emphasized the need to prevent further hostilities, underscoring the importance of returning to the peace process. They discussed next steps, and the Secretary encouraged the sides to meet again before the end of the month," said Price.

During the direct talks, Blinken said on Twitter that "it is time for troops to disengage and diplomats to return to the table."

Azerbaijan and Armenia recently reached a cease-fire following border clashes that claimed lives on both sides.

Relations between the former Soviet republics have been tense since 1991, when the Armenian military occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan.

Baku liberated several cities, villages and settlements from Yerevan during new clashes in the fall of 2020 which ended after a Moscow-backed truce. The peace agreement is celebrated as a triumph in Azerbaijan.