Moscow expects negotiations on the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to resume as soon as possible and is working on it jointly with its Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group partners, according to Russian Foreign Ministry Sergei Lavrov.
In an interview with the Russian Trud newspaper published on Friday Lavrov was, in particular, asked to speak about reasons behind the July escalation on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and evaluate the likelihood of its growing into a large-scale armed conflict.
“A whole complex of reasons had led to the conflict. The basis of it, of course, was the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh problem plus the overheating of the public space on both sides of the border,” the top Russian diplomat said.
“The geographic factor also served as a kind of trigger: the decision of the Armenian side to reanimate an old border checkpoint located 15 kilometers from the Azerbaijani export pipelines caused heightened anxiety on the one side and an unjustified response from the other, and, as a result, it launched the flywheel of confrontation with the most unpredictable consequences,” he added.
Armenia and Azerbaijan accused each other of the escalation on July 12-16 in which at least five Armenian servicemen and 17 Azerbaijani servicemen, including a general, were killed.
The fighting along the border separating Armenia’s northeastern Tavush province and Azerbaijan’s northwestern Tovuz region proceeded with the use of heavy artillery, mortars and drones.
In his interview Lavrov pointed out that the clashes were the second largest violation of the Moscow-brokered 1994 ceasefire after 2016 clashes near Nagorno-Karabakh and the first such large-scale fighting at the state border of Armenia and Azerbaijan in the past 26 years.
Lavrov said that the Russian co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, which also includes the United States and France, was in direct contact with the top diplomats of Armenia and Azerbaijan during the whole period of the escalation.
“As a result, it was with active Russian mediation that, although not from the first attempt, but still we got to the agreement on ceasefire from July 16,” he said.
The clashes at the Armenian-Azerbaijani border were followed by tensions between ethnic Armenian and Azerbaijani communities around the world, including in Russia.
Instances of fights and violent rampages involving Armenians and Azerbaijanis were reported in Moscow and other cities of Russia.
Lavrov stressed that “both diasporas should be fully aware of their responsibility both for the observance of the laws of the Russian Federation and for helping to create an atmosphere conducive to the normalization of relations between Baku and Yerevan.”
In his public statements after the clashes Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian called for the establishment of an international mechanism to investigate ceasefire violations in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict zone. He reiterated that call in his interview on BBC World News’ HARDtalk show on August 14.
Speaking at a session of the Security Council in Yerevan on Friday, Pashinian said that “the victorious battles in July came to demonstrate that there is no military solution to the Karabakh issue.”
“I think the time has come for the Azerbaijani leadership to acknowledge this fact,” he added.
“I consider it important to state that Armenia continues with its constructive stance on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. Our position is that the conflict should be settled through peaceful talks,” the Armenian leader underscored in remarks publicized by his press service.