The Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group (Ambassadors Igor Popov of Russia, Stephane Visconti of France, and Richard Hoagland of the United States of America), together with the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk, issued a statement following their visit to the region on June 19, APA reported.
The main purpose of the co-chairs’ visit was to discuss the position of the sides towards the next steps in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process after the trilateral ministerial meeting in Moscow (28 April) as well as the overall situation in the conflict zone, said the statement.
“The co-chairs met with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan in Yerevan (10 June) and with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Baku (19 June). In both capitals, they also held consultations with the Foreign and Defence Ministers. The Co-Chairs traveled to Nagorno-Karabakh (12 June) to meet with de facto authorities, and visited a number of territories around Nagorno-Karabakh, including the Zangelan, Kubatly, Lachin, and Kelbajar districts. In Baku, they also met with the Azerbaijani community of Nagorno-Karabakh,” the statement said.
In their talks in Baku, the co-chairs expressed deep concern over the recent violations of the ceasefire, resulting in casualties on the Line of Contact, on the eve of their visit to Azerbaijan, according to the statement.
“They appealed to the leadership of Azerbaijan to avoid further escalation. The co-chairs are sending the same message to the leadership of Armenia and de facto authorities of Nagorno-Karabakh. They encouraged the sides to consider measures that would reduce tensions on the Line of Contact and the international border between Armenia and Azerbaijan,” said the statement.
“In both capitals, the co-chairs called upon the parties to re-engage in negotiations on substance, in good faith and with political will. They underscored that this is the only way to bring a lasting peace to the people of the region, who expect and deserve progress in the settlement of the conflict. The presidents expressed their intention to resume political dialogue in an attempt to find a compromise solution for the most controversial issues of the settlement,” according to the statement.
The co-chairs stated that they will travel to Vienna to brief the members of the Minsk Group on 3 July.
The co-chairs said that they also plan to meet again soon with the Azerbaijani and Armenian foreign ministers to discuss modalities of the forthcoming work.
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict entered its modern phase when the Armenian SRR made territorial claims against the Azerbaijani SSR in 1988.
A fierce war broke out between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. As a result of the war, Armenian armed forces occupied some 20 percent of Azerbaijani territory which includes Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent districts (Lachin, Kalbajar, Aghdam, Fuzuli, Jabrayil, Gubadli and Zangilan), and over a million Azerbaijanis became refugees and internally displaced people.
The military operations finally came to an end when Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a ceasefire agreement in Bishkek in 1994.
Dealing with the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is the OSCE Minsk Group, which was created after the meeting of the CSCE (OSCE after the Budapest summit held in December 1994) Ministerial Council in Helsinki on 24 March 1992. The Group’s members include Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russia, the United States, France, Italy, Germany, Turkey, Belarus, Finland and Sweden.
Besides, the OSCE Minsk Group has a co-chairmanship institution, comprised of Russian, the US and French co-chairs, which began operating in 1996.
Resolutions 822, 853, 874 and 884 of the UN Security Council, which were passed in short intervals in 1993, and other resolutions adopted by the UN General Assembly, PACE, OSCE, OIC, and other organizations require Armenia to unconditionally withdraw its troops from Nagorno-Karabakh.