LINKS urges S.Caucasus to establish security on the basis of mutually agreed security arrangements

LINKS urges S.Caucasus to establish security on the basis of mutually agreed security arrangements

Azerbaijan, Baku, Feb. 9 / Trend , E.Rustamov/

Security of the countries of the South Caucasus region needs to be established on the basis of mutually agreed security arrangements, said LINKS Executive Director Dennis Sammut.

"One should not underestimate the difficult task that the two governments have in front of them in trying to solve a conflict that is deep rooted and that is full of emotions for their respective nations. The meeting between President Aliev and President Sarghsian in Switzerland a few days ago has been positively evaluated by both governments, as well as by the OSCE Minsk Group co-Chair," Sammut told Trend on Feb. 9.

Azerbaijani and Armenian Presidents discussed ways to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in Zurich on Jan. 28 during the World Economic Forum in Davos.

The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. Armenian armed forces have occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan since 1992, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and 7 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 the peace negotiations.

"The process is now proceeding more intensively than before and I am optimistic that we can see some progress soon," said Sammut.

However, Samumut said this does not mean anybody can be complacent. "The situation is still delicate, especially on the cease fire line. People are still dying every week. They are dying in vain and this should stop immediately," he said.

According to Azerbaijani Defence Ministry, 45 servicemen of Azerbaijani armed forces died in 2007 as a result of violation of ceasefire agreement, mine explosions and for other reasons. Azerbaijani military experts said Azerbaijan lost roughly 5,000 servicemen during ceasefire period from May 1994.

Sammut called on officials and commentators on both sides to be more careful in the language that they use in commenting about the situation.

War will be a disaster for both Armenia and Azerbaijan. There is still a danger that war will start by accident when you have a concentration of troops as exists on the cease fire line, he said. "In the South Caucasus the countries are spending more on arms than they should and we have a mini arms race going on. It would be much better if this money is spent on education and health care," Sammut said.

Sammut agrees that each country has a right to have an efficient army. "But the security of the countries of the region needs to be established on the basis of mutually agreed security arrangements," he said.

That is why there is a need to develop confidence building measures - both military and civilian, he said. 

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