Baku, Azerbaijan, Feb.3
By Sabina Ahmadova - Trend:
"The casualties and ceasefire violations on the line of contact and the border cause concern, Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Andrzej Kasprzyk said in his exclusive interview to Trend.
Every casualty is a tragedy that can be avoided if the ceasefire is respected fully, according to Kasprzyk.
"Unfortunately, the reports indicate that during the recent weeks the situation has grown more tense and the risk of an escalation should not be underestimated," Kasprzyk said.
"I and my team have experienced this recent growth in tensions first-hand during recent monitoring exercises, when shots were fired in spite of the fact that local commanders on both sides, using OSCE radio equipment, provided security guarantees to our teams with a clear undertaking that troops under their command would honor the ceasefire for the duration of the monitoring exercise," Kasprzyk said.
The responsibility to respect the ceasefire rests with the sides, according to the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office.
"In Paris, the Co-chairs called on them to fully and unconditionally respect the terms of the ceasefire agreement, and stressed that the recent incidents undermine negotiations and diminish the prospects for peace. Representatives of Foreign Ministries of the three Co-chairing countries just recently issued statements calling for a strict observation of the ceasefire. Discussions about strengthening the ceasefire are continuing, and it will be a subject for talks during the trip of the Co-chairs to the region in the coming days," Kasprzyk said.
Kasprzyk stressed that the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter said that he was concerned by reports in recent days of deaths and injuries among Armenian and Azerbaijani military personnel and civilians as a result of shooting.
"Burkhalter strongly encouraged the sides to make full use of the valuable opportunity provided by visits by OSCE teams to the border and Line of Contact for direct communication with one another, with a view to reducing tensions," the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office said.
Touching upon the meeting of Azerbaijani and Armenian foreign ministers in French capital, Kasprzyk said that in Paris, the Ministers and the Co-Chairs discussed substantive issues to advance the peace process, building on the November 19 summit in Vienna, which was followed by the December 5 ministerial meeting in Kiev.
"The Ministers reiterated their willingness to continue working towards a peaceful, negotiated settlement. The Co-chairs will follow up on this during their upcoming trip to the region," Kasprzyk said.
The situation remains tense on the contact line. Earlier the head of the press service of Azerbaijani Defense Ministry, Lieutenant-Colonel Vagif Dergahli told Trend that most ceasefire violations are observed in the directions of Fizuli, Agdam, Terter, Goranboy, Khojavend and Jabrayil districts.
Dergahli emphasized that the number of truce violations and intensity of shootings have increased in recent days. Thus, the ceasefire was violated 2000 times from January 21 up until now. In all cases, the shooting was countered by return fire.
The OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs expressed their deep concern over continued violence in the region, according to the organization's statement on the results of the Paris meeting between Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov and Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian.
The co-chairs stressed that recent incidents undermine negotiations and diminish the prospects for peace.
In addition, U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf said at a press briefing on Jan.24 that the use of force will not resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
"We have seen the reports and regret any loss of life anywhere, but certainly here as well. Our position remains that the use of force will not resolve this conflict. We call on all parties to refrain from the use or threat of force," Harf said.
The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. Armenian armed forces have occupied 20 per cent of Azerbaijan since 1992, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts.
Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a ceasefire agreement in 1994. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, Russia, France and the U.S. are currently holding peace negotiations.
Armenia has not yet implemented the U.N. Security Council's four resolutions on the liberation of the Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding regions.