The OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen, during a visit last week to Armenia, the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and Azerbaijan, unveiled the results of a fact finding/monitoring mission they headed in October to the leaders of the three countries. Upon the completion of last week’s trip the co-chairs announced they would publicize their finding after briefing the OSCE Minsk Group in Vienna.
On Thursday, the Co-chairmen issued a statement, that included the executive summary of their fact finding mission, which we present below:
The Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group (Ambassadors Bernard Fassier of France, Robert Bradtke of the United States, and Igor Popov of the Russian Federation) were in Vienna on March 23-24, where they briefed the Minsk Group and Secretary General Marc Perrin de Brichambaut on their recent and upcoming activities as mediators of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The Co-Chairs also presented the “Report of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs’ Field Assessment Mission to the Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan Surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh,” the Executive Summary [see below]. The harsh reality of the situation in these territories has reinforced the view of the Co-Chairs that the status quo is unacceptable, and that only a peaceful, negotiated settlement can bring the prospect of a better, more certain future to the people who used to live in the territories and those who live there now. The Co-Chairs intend this report to be forward-looking — offering all parties a vision of how these areas could contribute to peace and prosperity, rather than being a source of tension and conflict.
The Co-Chairs will travel again to the region in the near future to continue discussions on the Basic Principles, building on the positive momentum of the March 5 Sochi summit. They also will develop with their interlocutors concrete measures to fulfill the commitments made at Sochi regarding investigations – with the participation of all sides – of ceasefire violations.
Noting the continuing importance of restraint by the sides both on the ground and in public statements, the Co-Chairs consider unacceptable any use or threat of force, including against civil aircraft. In that respect, they strongly condemn the senseless cycle of killings and retaliations along the front lines. They reiterated their long-standing position that all sides should prepare their populations for peace, not war.
Below is the text of the Executive Summary:
Executive Summary of the “Report of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs’ Field Assessment Mission to the Occupied Territories Surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh”
The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs conducted a Field Assessment Mission to the seven occupied territories of Azerbaijan surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) from October 7-12, 2010, to assess the overall situation there, including humanitarian and other aspects. The Co-Chairs were joined by the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in Office and his team, which provided logistical support, and by two experts from the UNHCR and one member of the 2005 OSCE Fact-Finding Mission. This was the first mission by the international community to the territories since 2005, and the first visit by UN personnel in 18 years.
In traveling more than 1,000 kilometers throughout the territories, the Co-Chairs saw stark evidence of the disastrous consequences of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the failure to reach a peaceful settlement. Towns and villages that existed before the conflict are abandoned and almost entirely in ruins. While no reliable figures exist, the overall population is roughly estimated as 14,000 persons, living in small settlements and in the towns of Lachin and Kelbajar. The Co-Chairs assess that there has been no significant growth in the population since 2005. The settlers, for the most part ethnic Armenians who were relocated to the territories from elsewhere in Azerbaijan, live in precarious conditions, with poor infrastructure, little economic activity, and limited access to public services. Many lack identity documents. For administrative purposes, the seven territories, the former NK Oblast, and other areas have been incorporated into eight new districts.
The harsh reality of the situation in the territories has reinforced the view of the Co Chairs that the status quo is unacceptable, and that only a peaceful, negotiated settlement can bring the prospect of a better, more certain future to the people who used to live in the territories and those who live there now. The Co-Chairs urge the leaders of all the parties to avoid any activities in the territories and other disputed areas that would prejudice a final settlement or change the character of these areas. They also recommend that measures be taken to preserve cemeteries and places of worship in the territories and to clarify the status of settlers who lack identity documents. The Co Chairs intend to undertake further missions to other areas affected by the NK conflict, and to include in such missions experts from relevant international agencies that would be involved in implementing a peace settlement.