The U.S., Russian and French mediators strongly condemned last week’s deadly fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces around Nagorno-Karabakh and urged both parties to “exercise restraint” late on Monday.
In a joint statement, diplomats from the three mediating powers co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group noted that the overnight gunfight, which left four Armenian and one Azerbaijani soldiers dead, took place “immediately” after the June 17 Armenian-Azerbaijani summit in Saint Petersburg, Russia. But they stopped short of explicitly blaming either side for the incident.
“Such an incident is an unacceptable violation of the 1994 Ceasefire Agreement and is contrary to the stated commitment of the sides to refrain from the use of force or the threat of the use of force,” reads the statement.
“The use of military force, particularly at this moment, can only be seen as an attempt to damage the peace process,” it adds. “Therefore the Co-Chairs call upon the sides to exercise restraint on the terrain as well as in their public communications and prepare their population for peace and not for war. They reiterate that there is no alternative to a peaceful negotiation solution of the conflict and that war is not an option.”
Armenia claims that Azerbaijan deliberately provoked the worst ceasefire violation in over two years to sabotage the negotiating process. President Serzh Sarkisian said on Saturday that the incident also exposed Baku’s “disrespectful attitude” towards the mediators and urged them not to let it go “unpunished.”
According to official Russian sources, Sarkisian and his Azerbaijani counterpart, Ilham Aliyev, narrowed their differences on the Minsk Group’s existing plan to resolve the Karabakh conflict during their latest talks hosted by Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev. While in Saint Petersburg, Aliyev and Sarkisian also held separate meetings with the group’s co-chairs.
It was announced afterwards that the mediating troika will visit the conflict zone early next month.