MOSCOW, August 2 (RIA Novosti) – OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Didier Burkhalter and members of the Minsk Group have expressed “deep concerns” amid rising violence in Nagorno-Karabakh, at the center of a territorial dispute between Armenia and neighboring Azerbaijan.
“They appealed to the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan to take immediate action to defuse tensions and to respect the ceasefire agreement. Retaliation and further violence will only make it more difficult to continue efforts to bring about a lasting peace,” the Chairperson-in-Office and the Co-Chairs of the Minsk Group said.
“They also urged the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan to resume as soon as possible negotiations on peaceful settlement of the conflict, being the only way to bring peace and genuine reconciliation to the peoples of the region,” the statement said.
The Burkhalter and co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, Ambassadors Igor Popov of Russia, James Warlick of the United States, and Pierre Andrieu of France, also extended their condolences to the families of the victims and “shared the anguish of their grievous losses.”
The sides said they “were deeply concerned” about reports that an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) vehicle came under fire while assisting the local population on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border on a humanitarian mission.
“They strongly condemned the deliberate targeting of civilians and shooting at representatives of international organizations and reminded the parties of their obligations under Geneva Conventions,” the statement said.
Tensions along the contact line of Nagorno-Karabakh with Azerbaijan have been running high over the past few days.
On Saturday, Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said four people were killed overnight along the contact line in a shootout, while the Nagorno-Karabakh republic said one its soldier was killed.
On Thursday, the troops of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh republic said two soldiers were killed on the border, while Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry claimed nine Azeri soldiers were killed.
A spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Saturday that the recent escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is a serious violation of ceasefire agreements.
Armenia and Azerbaijan are still technically at war after a conflict over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh in the early 1990s left some 30,000 people dead. A ceasefire was agreed on in 1994, but a permanent peace deal has still not been signed.