Armenia says it is ready to work for Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire
Armenia said on Friday it would work with Russia, the United States and France on renewing a ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh, but Azerbaijan has not responded to a call for a ceasefire meditated by the three countries – co-chairs of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group.
“We will continue to adamantly repel Azerbaijan’s aggression but, at the same time, are also ready to engage with the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs on a ceasefire based on the agreements of 1994-1995,” Armenia’s foreign ministry said.
Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev ruled out talks with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh on Tuesday, saying Armenia’s demands over Nagorno-Karabakh are unacceptable. Its ally Turkey said on Thursday the three big powers should have no role in peacemaking and a lasting ceasefire could be achieved only if “Armenian occupiers” withdrew from Nagorno-Karabakh.
“It is obvious that Armenia is not interested in resolving the conflict through negotiations and is trying to annex the occupied territories,” Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry said.
French President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement he had spoken on the phone successively with the prime minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, and the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, and had proposed a new method to restart talks within the Minsk group.
Macron said work would start from Friday evening, as he upped his efforts to broker mediation in his role as co-chair of the OSCE Minsk group.
The Armenian government said Pashinyan and Macron agreed that any use of foreign fighters and terrorists in the conflict was unacceptable, and Macron called for an immediate ceasefire.
France has accused Turkey of sending Syrian mercenaries to the tiny enclave and Russia has also expressed concern about the alleged deployment of fighters from Syria and Libya. Turkey and Azerbaijan have dismissed those accusations.
Pashinyan told U.S. national security adviser Robert O’Brien by telephone that a ceasefire would be impossible unless “mercenaries and terrorists” are removed from Nagorno-Karabakh.
Each side accused the other of mounting new attacks on civilian targets on Friday, including by firing across their shared border, which is well to the west of Nagorno-Karabakh.
All-out war over Nagorno-Karabakh would risk drawing in regional powers: Russia, which has a military base in majority Christian Armenia, and Turkey, which has said it will stand by mainly Muslim Azerbaijan.
Civilians across the region increasingly worried
Cahanquba Quliyeva, a 28-year-old architect in the Azeri capital Baku, said she was worried her husband and brother would be called up to fight. “We only saw this in the movies. And now we are going through that ourselves in real life,” she said.
In Yerevan, food technologist Eduard Vlasyan, 30, said: “At the moment this is a full-scale war. If we give Karabakh to them, they will demand Armenia next time.”
More fighting was reported overnight and throughout Friday. Nagorno-Karabakh’s defense ministry reported 55 new military casualties, taking the death toll among its forces to 147.
Eleven civilians have been reported killed and at least 67 wounded in the mountainous enclave.
The Azeri prosecutor’s office said 20 civilians had so far been killed and 55 wounded in Armenian shelling. Azerbaijan has not reported on casualties among its military forces.
The OSCE called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to enable the repatriation of the remains of fallen servicemen.
Clashes broke out on Sunday between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh. The enclave is not recognized internationally as independent, and has been the subject of conflict since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
The fighting is more serious than at any time since a war in the 1990s in which 30,000 people were killed and has deepened concern about stability in the South Caucasus, a region where pipelines carry Azeri oil and gas to world markets.