VIENNA–International mediators from the OSCE Minsk Group mediating the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict issued a statement on Friday as they wrapped up a regional tour of Armenia, Karabakh and Azerbaijan.
The statement summarizes meetings with the authorities of each country held from September 6-9 by the three Co-Chairs of the Minsk Group, Ambassadors Igor Popov of Russia, Bernard Fassier of France, and Robert Bradtke of the United States. It also reiterates calls for restraint and respect for the cease-fire regime in place since 1994.
The announcement comes on the heels of another statement released on Monday condemning two recent Azeri military incursions across a northeastern section of the Nagorno-Karabakh-Azerbaijan line of contact. The same section of the frontline was also the scene of another serious skirmish when Azeri forces launched an attack killing four Armenian soldiers on June 18.
“On September 8, with the facilitation of the Permanent Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk and the military authorities of all sides, the Co-Chairs crossed the Line of Contact (LoC) on foot, en route to Stepanakert/Khankhendi, to highlight that the LoC is not to become a permanent barrier between neighboring peoples and to demonstrate to all parties that the ceasefire of 1994 must be strictly respected. This marked the first time the mediators have crossed the LoC since November 2001,” the statement said.
According to the statement, France’s Bernard Fassier, Russia’s Igor Popov and the US’s Robert Bradtke met in Baku with Azeri President Ilham Aliyev on September 7, traveled to Stepanakert on September 8 for talks with Karabakh President Bako Sahakian, and rounded off the trip on September 9.with a meeting in Yerevan with Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian
In their meetings, “The Co-Chairs presented their work plan for the months ahead” and stressed that “a more constructive approach by all sides will be needed to be able to implement their plan and to make progress in the months leading up to the OSCE Summit.”
“The Co-Chairs held discussions with all parties regarding the previously agreed Field Assessment Mission to the territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh, which they will conduct between late September and mid-October. They presented the elements of their mission, and they will finalize their preparations for the mission in the nearest future,” the statement continued.
The three mediators again “strongly urged all parties to respect the cease-fire and exercise restraint on the ground and in their public statements.” They also called “for an end to incursions across the Line of Contact” and reiterated that the 1994 cease-fire agreement be “carried out in practice.”
The Co-Chairs also commented on a recent attempt by Azerbaijan to introduce a draft resolution on Karabakh into the UN General Assembly demanding the return of Armenian lands to Azeri control. Baku pulled the resolution on Thursday after what reports indicate to be pressure from the OSCE Minsk Group.
The Co-Chairs “welcomed the decision by Azerbaijan to postpone consideration of its resolution in the United Nations General Assembly,” the statement said. “At the same time they reiterated that the OSCE Minsk Group remains the sole framework for a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”
The statement reiterated that the Co-Chairs will travel to Washington and then New York in the coming weeks to meet with the sides on the margins of the UN General Assembly. Following their sideline talks, the Co-Chairs will return to the region in October to conduct the Field Assessment Mission of the humanitarian situation in the liberated Armenian territories surrounding Karabakh.