The United States and the European Union condemned on Saturday a dramatic upsurge in ceasefire violations in Nagorno-Karabakh, saying that the warring sides should immediately restore the truce.
“The United States condemns in the strongest terms the large-scale ceasefire violations along the Nagorno-Karabakh Line of Contact, which have resulted in a number of reported casualties, including civilians … We urge the sides to show restraint, avoid further escalation, and strictly adhere to the ceasefire,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement.
“We reiterate that there is no military solution to the conflict,” added Kerry.
The EU’s foreign and security policy chief, Federica Mogherini, likewise described the escalation as “deeply worrying.” “I call on the parties to stop the fighting immediately and observe the cease-fire,” she said. “The sides must show restraint and avoid any further actions or statements that could result in escalation.”
In a further sign of Western concerns about the escalation, Foreign Ministers Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany and Jean-Marc Ayrault phoned their Armenian counterpart Edward Nalbandian to discuss the situation in the war zone. It was not immediately clear whether they also had phone calls with Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov.
The heavy fighting followed Kerry’s talks with the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan held on the sidelines of this week’s global nuclear security summit in Washington. Kerry urged both leaders to seek a peaceful resolution of the Karabakh conflict.
In televised remarks aired on Saturday evening, President Serzh Sarkisian said he asked Kerry as well as U.S. Vice President Joe Biden to “rein in Azerbaijan so that it stops violating the ceasefire.” “But you saw what happened just hours after those meetings,” Sarkisian told Armenia’s top security officials.
Kerry said in his statement that Washington remains “firmly committed to working with the sides to reach a lasting and negotiated peace” in its capacity as one of the three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group.
U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-heading the Minsk Group also expressed “grave concern.” “The Co-Chairs call upon the sides to stop shooting and take all necessary measures to stabilize the situation on the ground,” they said in a joint statement. “They reiterate that … that war is not an option.”
The mediators did not specify whether they plan to visit the conflict zone or arrange fresh Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks in the coming days.