International mediators brokering a solution to the protracted conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh have expressed their ‘serious concern’ about the increase in tensions and violence, including “the targeted killings of civilians”, along the Line of Contact and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.
After holding separate meetings with the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Brussels earlier this week, the American, Russian and French co-chairs of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Minsk Group, Ambassadors James Warlick, Igor Popov and Pierre Andrieu, issued a statement from Vienna, Austria, on July 23, saying that during the meetings they urged the parties “to commit themselves to avoiding casualties” and “rejected the deliberate targeting of villages and the civilian population”.
The mediators said they also called on Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov “to defuse tensions and adhere to the terms of the ceasefire.”
“The Co-Chairs and the foreign ministers also discussed possible agenda items for a presidential summit, underscoring the importance of a meeting between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan for achieving progress in peace negotiations. They also discussed meetings which could take place in New York on the margins of the UN General Assembly,” the statement said.
“The Co-Chairs continue to review possible security confidence building measures and people-to-people programs with the parties. They believe that such programs build the trust and confidence necessary for a lasting peace.”
The Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk, also participated in the Brussels meetings.
Meanwhile, in Vienna, the Co-Chairs briefed the countries of the Minsk Group about the status of Nagorno-Karabakh peace negotiations.
According to the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, meeting with the mediators in Brussels on Tuesday, Minister Nalbandian also raised the issue of ‘intensified subversive activities’ by Azerbaijan. He highlighted what he called the increasingly ‘militaristic rhetoric’ of Baku, as well as what he said were numerous violations of the ceasefire regime along the border with Armenia.
Last week, authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh said a group of Azerbaijanis had been arrested in the region on suspicion of espionage and subversive activities.
The unrecognized republic’s police force said the group members had killed one military serviceman and severely wounded a civilian.
Another Karabakh teenager, it said, had been kidnapped and then brutally murdered by the alleged Azerbaijani saboteurs.
David Babayan, a spokesman for Nagorno-Karabakh’s president, on Thursday reiterated Stepanakert’s commitment to observing the ceasefire regime, but accused Azerbaijan of refusing to abide by the truce.