The European Union has added its voice to international concerns about the latest upsurge in fighting along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and around Nagorno-Karabakh and urged the conflicting parties to respect ceasefire.
“The High Representative calls on both sides strictly to respect the ceasefire and exercise restraint on the ground and in public statements in order to prevent a further escalation of the situation, which has been deteriorating during the last several months,” a spokesperson for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a weekend statement.
“Threat or use of force as well as the status quo do not contribute to a resolution of the persisting conflict,” said the statement.
The latest escalation began with the death of three Armenian soldiers at the westernmost section of Armenia’s long frontier with Azerbaijan last Monday. The incident, which the Armenian side described as an Azerbaijani “sabotage attack,” took place just hours before U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Yerevan at the start of a regional tour. At least five Azerbaijani soldiers were shot dead the following morning in the same area.
Clinton expressed serious concern at the deadly fighting in Yerevan and during her ensuing trip to Baku. She warned of possible “disastrous consequences” of escalating violence in the conflict zone after talks with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on Wednesday.
Ashton said the skirmishes underscored the need for joint investigations of truce violations and progress towards a peaceful settlement of the Karabakh dispute proposed by the U.S., Russian and French mediators.
“The High Representative urges Armenia and Azerbaijan, as partner countries, to step up their efforts to reach agreement on the Madrid principles [of a Karabakh settlement,] as a basis for peace, and to fully implement the commitments made by their Presidents in the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group,” read her spokesperson’s statement. “The EU reiterates its full support of the OSCE Minsk Group and the efforts of its co-chairs aimed at a peaceful conflict resolution."