BELGIUM (RFE/RL)–The European Union and NATO on Wednesday added their voice to international mediators’ concerns about the worst ceasefire violation in Nagorno-Karabakh in over two years that was reported late last week.
Azerbaijan, meanwhile, sought to rationalize this and other skirmishes between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces, saying that they are the inevitable result of the unresolved dispute over the Armenian-populated territory.
The EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton said through a spokesperson that she regrets the June 18-19 armed incident in northeastern Karabakh that left four Armenian and one Azerbaijani soldiers dead.
“The High Representative calls on both sides to respect the ceasefire, restrain from the use of force or any threat thereof, and continue efforts for the peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” read a statement issued by the spokesperson. “The EU reiterates its full support to the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group and the work of the three co-chairs.”
“NATO regrets these incidents and we certainly monitor the situation,” Guenter Bretschneider, the head of the alliance’s Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Center, told journalists in Yerevan. “That’s all I can say at this moment.”
Neither Ashton, nor the NATO official blamed Azerbaijan for the fighting which came just one day after a meeting of Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s presidents in Russia. Armenian leaders claim that Aliyev ordered an Azerbaijani army unit to attack a Karabakh Armenian outpost to sabotage the negotiating process.
In a joint statement issued late on Monday, the Minsk Group’s American, Russian and French chairs condemned the incident as an “unacceptable violation of the 1994 Ceasefire Agreement.” They reiterated their view that “there is no alternative to a peaceful negotiation solution of the conflict and that war is not an option.” The co-chairs similarly did not blame Azerbaijan.
“The co-chairs are urging us not give the war a chance, but in order for that to happen, the armed forces of Armenia must leave Azerbaijan’s territories,” Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov told a news conference in Baku on Wednesday. “The sooner that process begins, the better for everyone.”
“Armenia wants to sign with us some agreement on non-use of force,” he said, according to the APA news agency. “But force was already used and its consequences must be eliminated.”
Mammadyarov also said that Armenia has still not formally responded to what the co-chairs call “an updated version” of their basic principles of a Karabakh settlement that were originally put forward in Madrid in 2007. “It is very difficult to work in such circumstances,” he said.
Official Yerevan has repeatedly downplayed the still unpublicized changes made by the mediators in the Madrid document. Armenian leaders say they always accepted the original document as “a basis for negotiations.” They also dispute Baku’s stated acceptance of its modified version.
Meanwhile, the warring sides continued on Wednesday to accuse each other of violating the ceasefire regime in various sections of the Karabakh frontline. Neither side reported fresh casualties.
The Trend news agency cited the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry as saying that its forces came under “intense fire” from Armenian positions east and north of the disputed region on Tuesday and Wednesday.
A Karabakh military spokesman denied this, saying that Karabakh Armenian forces only returned fire to “silence the enemy.” “The Karabakh side did not breach the ceasefire,” Senor Hasratian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service from Stepanakert.