The U.S. State Department also called for the immediate release of all Armenian prisoners held in Azerbaijan, including the six soldiers who were captured by Azerbaijani forces on the border early on Thursday.
“The United States considers any movements along the non-demarcated areas of the international border between Armenia and Azerbaijan to be provocative and unnecessary,” the department spokesman, Ned Price, said a statement released on Thursday evening.
“We reject the use of force to demarcate the border and call on both sides to return to their previous positions and to cease military fortification of the non-demarcated border and the emplacement of landmines,” he said.
Price said that Armenian and Azerbaijani troops should retreat to the positions which they held as of May 11. He welcomed Armenia’s “statements of intent to this effect.”
“These actions will de-escalate tensions and create space for a peaceful negotiation process to demarcate the border on an urgent basis. The United States is prepared to assist these efforts,” added the official.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian proposed earlier on Thursday that both sides withdraw their troops from the disputed border areas and let Russia and/or the United States and France, the two other countries co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group, deploy observers there. He said that should be followed by a process of “ascertaining border points” supervised by the international community.
Pashinian told members of his Civil Contract party on Friday that one of the co-chair countries has already “tentatively reacted” to his proposal. “I hope that the two other co-chair countries will also react,” he said without naming any of them.
There has been no public reaction to Pashinian’s initiative from France, Russia and Azerbaijan so far.
The French, Russian and U.S. diplomats co-heading the OSCE Minsk Group echoed Washington’s calls for a troop disengagement and the release of the Armenian prisoners in a joint statement issued later on Friday.
“We call on both sides to take immediate steps, including the relocation of troops, to de-escalate the situation and to begin negotiations to delimitate and demarcate the border peacefully,” read the statement. “The Co-Chairs stand ready to assist in facilitating this process.”
Moscow proposed last week the creation of an Armenian-Azerbaijani commission on border demarcation in a bid to end the escalating border tensions.
The standoff began after Azerbaijani troops advanced several kilometers into Armenia’s Gegharkunik and Syunik provinces on May 12-14. The Armenian military responded by sending reinforcements to those areas.
The U.S. State Department urged Baku to “pull back all forces immediately and cease further provocation” on May 14. Three days later U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan discussed the issue with Pashinian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in separate phone calls.