Azerbaijan, Baku 8 March /corr. Trend J.Babayeva /The three Minsk Group Co-Chairmen - Ambassador Yury Merzlyakov of the Russian Federation, Ambassador Bernard Fassier of France and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza of the United States - issued a joint statement, the OSCE reported.
Starting in the early hours of 4 March, shooting began on the frontline of the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan and Armenia in the occupied territory of Azerbaijan in several directions. The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said that during the gun fire with Armenia, 12 Armenian soldiers were killed and 15 more were injured, whereas four Azerbaijani soldiers were killed and injured.
"The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs deeply regret the tragic loss of life on March 4 along the Line of Contact in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The Co-Chairs call on the parties to restore confidence along the Line of Contact and desist from any further confrontations, escalation of violence or warmongering rhetoric," the statement says.
"The Co-Chairs reiterate that there is no military solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. "The outbreak of hostilities would destabilize the entire region, with calamitous consequences for all involved. The recent casualties and loss of life only underscore the urgent need for both sides to reach to an agreement peacefully through ongoing negotiations under the mediation of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs. The Co-Chairs reiterate their support for Azerbaijan's territorial integrity and that Nagorno-Karabakh's status is the subject of negotiations," the statement says.
The conflict between the two countries of the South Caucasus began in 1988 due to Armenian territorial claims against Azerbaijan. Since 1992, Armenian Armed Forces have occupied 20% of Azerbaijan including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and its seven surrounding districts. In 1994, Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a ceasefire agreement at which time active hostilities ended. The Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group (Russia, France, and the US) are currently holding peaceful negotiations.