UN Security Council calls for Karabakh clashes to end ‘immediately’

A still image taken from a handout video released 29 September 2020 by the Azerbaijan's Defence Ministry shows allegedly Azerbaijan's artillery fires in direction of the enemy positions deployed in the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. [Handout photo/EPA/EFE]

The UN Security Council on Tuesday (29 September) called on Armenian and Azerbaijani forces to “immediately stop fighting” over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, after three days of deadly clashes, according to a statement seen by AFP.

The council’s 15 members “voiced support for the call by the Secretary General on the sides to immediately stop fighting, de-escalate tensions and return to meaningful negotiations without delay,” they said in a statement adopted unanimously during emergency talks on the conflict.

The council members said they “strongly condemn the use of force and regret the loss of life and the toll on the civilian population” in the ethnic Armenian enclave, which broke from Azerbaijan in the 1990s.

In the short statement, the council expressed concern over “reports of large scale military actions along the Line of Contact” in the conflict zone.

The council affirmed its “full support” for the central role of the co-chairs of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Minsk Group (the US, Russia and France), who have mediated peace efforts.

It urged all parties to work closely with the co-chairs “for an urgent resumption of dialogue without preconditions.”

Diplomats said the text, which was approved at the end of a meeting that lasted about an hour, was in fact proposed by the three co-chairs of the OSCE’s Minsk Group, facilitating its adoption.

Armenia and Azerbaijan accused one another on Tuesday of firing directly into each other’s territory and rejected pressure to hold peace talks.

Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, speaking to Russian state television, flatly ruled out any possibility of talks. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan told the same channel they could not take place while fighting continued.

Further stoking tensions between the two former Soviet republics, Armenia said a Turkish F-16 fighter jet had shot down one of its warplanes over Armenian airspace, killing the pilot.

It provided no evidence of the incident. Turkey called the claim “absolutely untrue”, and Azerbaijan also denied it.

Aliyev accused Armenia of fabricating the plane incident. “Turkey is not a party to the conflict, in no way participates in it and there is no need for this,” he said.

Any descent into all-out war could threaten to drag in not only Turkey, but Russia. Moscow has a defence alliance with Armenia, but also enjoys close relations with Azerbaijan.

The UNSC has adopted four resolutions on Nagorno-Karabakh, which call on the withdrawal of Armenian troops from the occupied areas.  UNSC Resolution 884 from 1993 also asked other nations to refrain from interfering in the conflict.

Apparently foreign interference is the biggest concern of the international community. The EU leaders meet for a summit with a largely foreign affairs agenda on Thursday and Friday, to which Nagorno-Karabakh is inviting itself.

EU warns against outside interference in the Caucasus

The European Union warned regional powers on Monday (28 September) to stay away from renewed fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh and condemned what it said was a “serious escalation” that may have “serious consequences for regional stability”.

US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden tweeted: “With casualties rapidly mounting in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, the Trump Administration needs to call the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan immediately to de-escalate the situation. It must also demand others – like Turkey – stay out of this conflict.”

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked for decades in a territorial dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh and have blamed each other for sparking fierce clashes that erupted on Sunday and have since caused nearly 100 confirmed deaths.

Deadly fighting had flared earlier this year, and in 2016.

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