Diplomats from France, Russia and the United States are meeting in New York with the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan in an effort to find a way out of the current impasse in the negotiations aimed at resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. On Thursday, the diplomats who jointly co-chair the so called OSCE Minsk Process, met with the Foreign Minister of Armenia Edward Nalbandian. A meeting with the Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan is expected today, after which it is hoped both Ministers can meet the co-Chair together.
However the situation on the ground further escalated even as the diplomats are holding their meetings in New York. In a terse statement, the co-Chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, Ambassadors Igor Popov of the Russian Federation, James Warlick of the United States of America, and Pierre Andrieu of France, together with the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk, expressed their serious concerns about Armenian and Azerbaijani forces using mortars and heavy weapons in and around civilian areas. In a statement they said,
"The use of such weapons represents an unacceptable escalation in the conflict. We express our deepest condolences to the families of the deceased and recognize the casualties on each side of the international border and Line of Contact. We appeal to the sides in the strongest possible terms to avoid civilian casualties. The sides have an obligation under the Geneva Conventions to protect the safety and security of non-combatants.
We regret that these incidents took place on the eve of the agreed meeting of the Armenian and Azerbaijani Foreign Ministers in New York. We expect the Ministers to have a serious discussion on the escalation of violence and the issues surrounding a negotiated settlement. While we are unable to determine with certainty how the violence originated since each side accuses the other, the parties should work towards an OSCE investigation mechanism as discussed between the Presidents.
We will continue our work with the sides at the highest levels to de-escalate tensions and advance a lasting and peaceful settlement."
In the meantime the Armenian side has reported extensive cease fire violations on Thursday night and early Friday morning. The Ministry of Defence of the self declared Nagorno-Karabakh Republic said in a statement quoted by news.am that "Azerbaijan fired more than 4,000 shots in the direction of Armenian military positions". The statement said that the Azerbaijani side fired "a Turkish-made reactive rocket propelled howitzer", and that the Armenian side retaliated.
The Azerbaijani Defence Ministry also reported cease fire violations but denied that one of its positions was destroyed by Armenian fire.
source: commonspace.eu with agencies
photo: Armenian Foreign Minister Nalbandian meeting diplomats from France, Russia and the United States in New York on Thursday 24 September 2015. (picture courtesy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia press Office).