YEREVAN (ArmInfo.am)—The Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group say they remain deeply concerned that there has been no humanitarian access to the crash site of the Artsakh military helicopter downed by Azerbaijani forces on Nov. 12.
The OSCE’s website quotes the co-chairs as saying that the wreckage of the helicopter lies in a heavily mine-laden area of neutral territory on the Line of Contact and that they call on the sides to cease firing in the vicinity of the crash site and facilitate the demining of the area surrounding the site.
“In the spirit of the Astrakhan statement of October 2010 between the Presidents of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia, the Co-Chairs urge Azerbaijan to permit the recovery of the bodies of the victims, and Armenia to cooperate fully with all efforts to resolve this humanitarian situation,” the OSCE’s statement says.
“We note the presence of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk and his team in the region, and encourage the sides to use his good offices to allow access. We reaffirm our November 12 statement, reminding the sides of their responsibilities to respect the ceasefire and honor the commitments they made in Sochi, Newport, and Paris to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict,” the co-chairs say.
On Wednesday, Nov. 12, an unarmed Mi-24 helicopter belonging to the Artsakh Air Force was shot down by the Azerbaijani armed forces while conducting an exercise flight. The area where the helicopter was shot down has been under fire from Azerbaijani forces since the downing of the aircraft, making it impossible to retrieve the bodies of the pilots or to inspect the wreckage. The Commander of the staff was the Major Sergey Sahakyan, accompanied by Senior Lieutenant Sarkis Nazaryan and Lieutenant Azat Sahakyan.
The Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Aram Hamparian, reacting to the OSCE Minsk Group’s statement, said, “We welcome the Minsk Group’s delayed but nonetheless meaningful expression of concern regarding Azerbaijan’s continued obstruction of humanitarian access to allow the recovery of the remains of the crew of the helicopter it shot down on November 12th.”
“We hope that this criticism of Baku — taken in the wake of Ilham Aliyev’s reckless decision to introduce surface-to-air missiles into this conflict — reflects a new willingness on the OSCE’s part to publicly challenge Azerbaijan’s military escalation and openly confront its continued veto of life-saving confidence building measures toward a peaceful resolution, such as the pullback of snipers and the addition of observers along the line of contact,” Hamparian said.
Azerbaijan deemed the statement of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs as a provocation.
“OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs’ statement on the downing of the helicopter on the front line is a provocation, absurd and illogical,” the Azerbaijani parliament’s Vice-Speaker Ziyafat Asgarov said Thursday.
“The OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs issued a provocative statement that the wreckage of the helicopter lies in a neutral zone. We consider the statement absurd. The area where the helicopter was downed is the territory of Azerbaijan,” he said.