ANKARA, Oct 31 — Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed Friday in Geneva not to target civilians in a conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, according to a group founded to find a solution to hostilities. “The sides will not deliberately target civilian populations or non-military objects in accordance with international humanitarian law,” said a statement by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)’s Minsk Group co-chairs.
The Group was formed in 1992 to find a peaceful solution to the Armenia-Azerbaijan Upper Karabakh conflict.
Earlier Friday, the co-chairs — Igor Popov from Russia, France’s Stephane Visconti and Andrew Schofer from the US — met separately and jointly with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov and Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan.
Also at the meetings was the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson in Office (PRCiO) Andrzej Kasprzyk.
Consultations were held with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) President Peter Maurer.
The co-chairs reiterated calls to implement commitments “in full,” including the immediate establishment of a humanitarian ceasefire, under previous truce deals on Oct 10 in Moscow, Oct 17 — reaffirmed with Paris — and Oct 25 armistice in Washington.
The statement underlined that “without prejudice to the implementation of the ceasefire or other commitments,” the sides agreed to take several steps on an urgent basis, including actively engaging in the implementation of the recovery and exchange of remains on the battlefield by providing the ICRC and PRCiO the “necessary safety guarantees for facilitation.”
It also said they agreed within a week to deliver to the ICRC and PRCiO a list of “currently detained prisoners of war” to provide access and eventual exchange.
“The sides will provide in writing comments and questions related to possible ceasefire verification mechanisms in accordance with item 2 of the Oct 10 joint statement,” it added.
OSCE said that the co-chairs will continue working with Baku and Yerevan “intensively” to find a peaceful solution to the conflict.
The renewed intense military clashes that began on Sept 27 had resulted in the loss of lives, including civilians on both sides. Both Azerbaijan and Armenia have blamed each other for starting the fighting.
The protracted bitter conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia started in 1988 – three years before the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. In 1992, a full-scale war broke out between the two former Soviet states until a ceasefire signed in May 1994. In 1991, the ethnic Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence but the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) is not recognised by any country in the world.
The mountainous enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding districts which constitute about 20 per cent of Azerbaijan’s territory are internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, but is under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia.
In the past, the United Nations Security Council had adopted four resolutions, among others calling for the withdrawal of all occupying forces from the areas of Azerbaijan. The OSCE Minsk Group – co-chaired by France, Russia, and the US – was formed in 1992 to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, but to no avail.