United States, France and Russia call for Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire | Voice of America

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MOSCOW – The leaders of the United States, France and Russia on Thursday called for an immediate ceasefire amid the conflict between ethnic Armenian and Azerbaijani forces over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. Intense fighting has killed dozens of people in the turbulent South Caucasus region in the past few days alone.”We mourn those who have been lost and express our condolences to the families of the dead and injured,” read a statement from President Donald Trump, French leader Emmanuel Macron and Russian Vladimir Poutine, first published Thursday on the official website of the Kremlin.

“We call for an immediate cessation of hostilities between the military forces concerned,” the statement read.

“We also call on the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan to immediately commit to resuming substantive negotiations… in good faith and without preconditions,” the leaders said.

With the diplomatic communiqué, the United States, France and Russia resumed their roles as co-chairs of an Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) peace effort that dates back to the start of the conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh in the early 1990s.

Their joint call also comes amid growing concerns that Turkey – a traditional Azerbaijani ally and NATO member whom the Armenians blame for the genocide of their people more than a century earlier – could spark more regional conflict. large.

An ethnic Armenian soldier, who was wounded in fighting with Azeri forces in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, is transferred on a stretcher to the Erebouni medical center in Yerevan, Armenia, September 29, 2020 (Hakob Margaryan / Photolure)

Prior to this statement, President Macron accused Ankara of “warlike” behavior by providing mercenaries on the battlefield in Syria.

“Today, we have information, with certainty, which indicates that the Syrian militants left [that] battlefield … to join this battlefield in Karabakh, Macron said. “This is very serious.”

While the Kremlin reading made no mention of Turkey’s role, the Russian Foreign Ministry warned earlier this week that it believed mercenaries from Syria and Lebanon had joined in the fighting on Upper Karabakh.

Turkey has denied sending fighters but has repeatedly expressed support for Azerbaijan in the conflict.

Russia, in turn, has a strategic defense alliance with Armenia, but has sought to maintain good relations with Azerbaijan – a cautious balancing act that regional observers say is now in danger of collapse.

“Putin has a difficult decision: to come to the aid of Armenia and he ends Russia’s role as peacekeeper in the conflict. But neither can he abandon Armenia, ”Alexei Malashenko of the Institute for the Dialogue of Civilizations in Moscow told VOA.

Malashenko notes that Russia – along with the former Soviet states of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan – is committed to a common defense pact with Armenia, if the Yerevan government requests military assistance.

Including Turkey in future negotiations, he added, would be essential to prevent the fighting from spiraling.

Fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan erupted on September 27 – the latest in a long period of conflict that erupted following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

A still image from a video released by the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry shows an Azeri Armed Forces multiple rocket launcher carrying out strikes during clashes in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan on September 30, 2020.
A still image from a video released by the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry shows an Azeri Armed Forces multiple rocket launcher carrying out strikes during clashes in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan on September 30, 2020.

The roots of the conflict

Nagorno-Karabakh is an ethnically Armenian enclave within the borders of Azerbaijan that was the scene of a war in the early 1990s that killed 30,000 people and displaced over a million people.

Nagorno-Karabakh declared its independence, but the international community formally recognizes the territory as part of Azerbaijan.

Religious tensions also contribute to mistrust: Armenia is predominantly Christian while Azerbaijan is predominantly Muslim.

An internationally negotiated ceasefire in 1994 froze the conflict but failed to achieve lasting peace.

Over the years, the two sides have engaged in skirmishes and violated the ceasefire – with deaths and injuries to testify. The latest fighting erupted after Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh authorities declared that Azerbaijan had launched a “full-scale attack” on the enclave.

The government in Baku said it was engaged in a “counterattack” and accused Armenia of infiltrating the enclave with weapons and troops.

Increasing Loss Reports

The new diplomatic push comes as Armenia and Azerbaijan blame the trade, claiming the other has inflicted heavy damage.

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said its forces killed up to 2,300 Armenian soldiers and destroyed 130 Armenian tanks, 200 artillery installations and 25 missile defense systems.

For its part, Armenia claimed to have killed 790 Azeri soldiers and injured 1,900 soldiers. The Yerevan government also claimed to have destroyed 137 Azeri tanks, 72 drones and seven helicopters.

Although none of the figures could be confirmed, human rights groups said civilians were caught in the fighting.

“The latest escalation has caused fear among the population, with many people trying to leave and seek safety with their families,” said Eteri Musayelian of the International Committee of the Red Cross, contacted by VOA in Nagorno-Karabakh.

“There are civilians among the victims on both sides,” Musayelian added.

“All parties should remember that attacks on civilians are serious violations of international humanitarian law and constitute war crimes,” Hugh Williamson, director of Europe and Central Asia programs at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

“This is true even if they are carried out in retaliation for indiscriminate attacks by the opponent,” he added.

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