U.S., Russian and French mediators have deplored a recent “attempted incursion on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border” but stopped short of blaming Armenia or Azerbaijan for the deadly incident.
“Violations of the ceasefire are unacceptable and are contrary to the acknowledged commitments of the Parties, who bear full responsibility, not to use force,” the three co-chairs said late on Monday in a joint statement on the December 29 incident, which left three Armenian and at least one Azerbaijani soldier dead.
“The Co-Chairs urge the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan to strictly observe the agreements reached during summits in Vienna and St. Petersburg in 2016, including obligations to finalize in the shortest possible time an OSCE investigative mechanism,” they said.
“We call upon the Parties to cease mutual accusations and undertake all necessary measures to stabilize the situation on the ground,” added the statement.
The mediators also urged the Armenian side to repatriate “without delay” the body of the Azerbaijani serviceman that was left lying in Armenian territory after the skirmish.
Armenian officials say the fact that he was shot dead at an Armenian border post in the northern Tavush province proves that it was attacked by Azerbaijani forces. Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian made the same point when he reacted to the co-chairs’ statement on Tuesday.
“We agree with them in that ceasefire violations are unacceptable,” Nalbandian said in written comments to the Armenpress news agency. “We agree that agreements reached in Vienna and Saint Petersburg, including on the introduction as soon as possible of a mechanism for investigating [armed] incidents, must be implemented unconditionally.”
“Such a mechanism would allow [the parties] to cease, as the co-chairs put it, mutual accusations,” he said. “Though, when an Azerbaijani saboteur is neutralized inside Armenian positions, it is clear to everyone, even without that mechanism, who launched the attack.”
Nalbandian insisted that the Azerbaijani side continues to oppose this and other safeguards against truce violations in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry has denied launching an incursion in the mountainous area. It claimed that an Armenian “reconnaissance squad” was ambushed by its forces while trying to cross into Azerbaijan.
Official Baku did not comment on the co-chairs’ statement as of Tuesday afternoon.