International mediators brokering a solution to the Karabakh conflict took part in a ceasefire monitoring on the Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact” near the disputed region as part of their latest tour of the region on Tuesday.
OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen Robert Bradtke, of the United States, Igor Popov, of Russia, and Bernard Fassier, of France, arrived in Yerevan on Monday in a fresh push for peace in the troubled region that has seen some heightened tensions of late. They were scheduled to travel to Baku upon completing their observation mission.
Azerbaijan reported another death of its soldier near Karabakh as recently as last weekend, while Armenia said the previous weekend it had lost two servicemen in what the Karabakh military described as sniper fire from Azerbaijani army positions.
The authorities in Armenia and Karabakh reiterated their readiness to withdraw snipers from the front lines, but refused to do so unilaterally. At the same time, Yerevan threatened to retaliate to discourage further sniper activity in the conflict zone. Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian army reported seven killed or wounded in the Azeri armed forces in the past week, describing the casualties as resulting from their troops’ ‘punitive actions.’ Azerbaijan has confirmed only one death.
The appeal for the withdrawal of snipers was backed by the leading religious leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia, who issued a joint statement to that effect from a clerical summit in Yerevan on Monday.
The Minsk Group troika by foot crossed the Armenian border in the northern section, proceeding into Azerbaijani territory. No violations were reported as a result of the ceasefire observation in that part of the “line of contact”.
During earlier meetings in Yerevan, with President Serzh Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian, the Minsk Group cochairmen, in particular, discussed issues pertaining to the current stage of the Karabakh settlement process ahead of next month’s OSCE Ministerial Council meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania.
The outgoing French co-chair of the Group, Bernard Fassier, introduced his successor, Jacques Faure, who until recently served as France’s ambassador to Ukraine.
At a press briefing later on the French mediator described his successor as a very experienced diplomat.