Baku, Azerbaijan, Oct. 26
The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group (ambassadors Igor Popov of Russia, James Warlick of the US, and Pierre Andrieu of France), together with the personal representative of the OSCE chairperson-in-office, ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk, traveled to Azerbaijan’s occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region October 23-25, 2016, according to the statement by the OSCE MG posted on its website Oct. 26.
The co-chairs met with the presidents and foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia [the sides of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict], and discussed current working proposals to advance substantive negotiations towards a lasting peace, said the statement.
The purpose of the co-chairs' visit was to discuss the situation after the unprecedented violence on the contact line of the two countries’ troops in April 2016, and to clarify positions on the negotiation process.
On the night of April 2, 2016, all the frontier positions of Azerbaijan were subjected to heavy fire from the Armenian side, which used large-caliber weapons, mortars and grenade launchers. The armed clashes resulted in deaths and injuries among the Azerbaijani population. Azerbaijan responded with a counter-attack, which led to liberation of several strategic heights and settlements.
Military operations were stopped on the line of contact between Azerbaijani and Armenian armies on Apr. 5 at 12:00 (UTC/GMT + 4 hours) with the consent of the sides, Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry had said. Ignoring the agreement, the Armenian side again started violating the ceasefire.
During the meetings with the OSCE MG co-chairs Oct. 23-25, Azerbaijan and Armenia confirmed that the situation on the ground remains relatively calm.
The co-chairs underscored that respect for the ceasefire provides a critical foundation for ongoing negotiations, and stressed the importance of fully implementing decisions taken in Vienna and St. Petersburg, according to the statement by the OSCE MG.
The presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia expressed their views on how to move the settlement process forward. The two presidents also reaffirmed their agreement to expand the Office of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, and operational details are still being discussed, the statement said.
The co-chairs plan to meet with the ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia including on the margins of the December 2016 OSCE Ministerial Council meeting in Hamburg to discuss a possible meeting of the two countries’ presidents at the earliest opportunity.
Such a dialogue at the highest level is necessary to make progress towards a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the statement said.
The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. As a result of the ensuing war, in 1992 Armenian armed forces occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts. The 1994 ceasefire agreement was followed by peace negotiations.
Armenia has not yet implemented four UN Security Council resolutions on withdrawal of its armed forces from the Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding districts.