Armenia says Azerbaijan responds to peace proposals, big gaps remain

(Reuters) -Azerbaijan has sent new proposals to Armenia in their longstanding attempts to reach a peace deal, but big gaps remain between the two sides, Armenia's state news agency quoted the country's foreign minister as saying on Wednesday.

Armenia also submitted a proposal of its own for a withdrawal from border areas of troops from both sides.

Armenpress cited Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan as saying the new Azerbaijani proposals were received on Tuesday, in response to a draft peace outline that Armenia had previously submitted.

"There is a process, there is a discussion... Unfortunately I am obliged to state that there are important questions on which the two sides' positions are still quite far from each other," Mirzoyan said.

Armenia's Foreign Ministry, in a statement reported by local media, later issued the proposal for a "reciprocal withdrawal of troops on the state border between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The statement said any such action would be based on maps drawn up in 1975, when both countries were Soviet republics.

There appeared to be no immediate response to the offer from Azerbaijan.

The two countries, since the Soviet collapse, have fought two wars in the past 30 years over Nagorno-Karabakh, a region internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but run by ethnic Armenian authorities.

Tensions have risen again this month, with each side accusing the other of building up troops.

Russia's TASS news agency reported Mirzoyan as saying that the leaders of the two countries planned to meet in Spain in October, though he appeared to be referring to an idea for such a meeting that was floated by European Council President Charles Michel when he hosted them in July.

No comment was immediately available from Azerbaijan about its latest proposals or the possible meeting.

Despite the tensions, the two sides appear to be making some progress on freeing up roads into Karabakh and getting more supplies to its residents, hit by food shortages after Azerbaijan restricted access for the past nine months to thwart what it said was arms smuggling.

Azerbaijan's foreign minister said earlier on Wednesday that two humanitarian aid convoys for Karabakh could set off "within hours" - one from Armenia, and one from its own territory - if a road from the Azerbaijani side was unblocked

(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by William Maclean, Ron Popeski and Lincoln Feast)