“The peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remains a priority for the EU,” EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia Toivo Klaar told APA in an exclusive interview.
“We have seen some encouraging steps in the last year in the process led by the Minsk Group Co-Chairs, in particular, I refer to the high-level meetings, which are essential for moving the process forward. I also welcome the simultaneous release of prisoners that took place in June this year. This is first and foremost a humanitarian measure, but it can also contribute to a positive political atmosphere, which is needed for progress in the peace process,” Toivo Klaar stated.
EU Special Representative noted that unfortunately, the situation continues to be fragile and unsustainable: “I can only echo the Co-Chairs in saying that I am concerned about recent casualties and I urge maximum restraint. The sides must strictly respect the ceasefire and in parallel engage in substantive negotiations.”
Toivo Klaar mentioned that aggressive rhetoric, in particular, can inflame tensions and trigger developments that easily can get out of hand: “We must remember that the militarisation in the region is still very high.”
According to him, the EU stands ready to support the implementation of agreements reached by the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan and by the foreign ministers: “ Now is time to step up the engagement to move forward in the peace process. The leaderships also need to start preparing their populations for peace, which will involve difficult decisions and compromises. The EU will continue to support the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs politically as well as through support to initiatives that aim at overcoming the conflict divide. The EU is ready to support further efforts when there is a peace deal."
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict entered its modern phase when the Armenian SRR made territorial claims against the Azerbaijani SSR in 1988.
A fierce war broke out between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. As a result of the war, Armenian armed forces occupied some 20 percent of Azerbaijani territory which includes Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent districts (Lachin, Kalbajar, Aghdam, Fuzuli, Jabrayil, Gubadli and Zangilan), and over a million Azerbaijanis became refugees and internally displaced people.
The military operations finally came to an end when Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a ceasefire agreement in Bishkek in 1994.
Dealing with the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is the OSCE Minsk Group, which was created after the meeting of the CSCE (OSCE after the Budapest summit held in December 1994) Ministerial Council in Helsinki on 24 March 1992. The Group’s members include Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russia, the United States, France, Italy, Germany, Turkey, Belarus, Finland and Sweden.
Besides, the OSCE Minsk Group has a co-chairmanship institution, comprised of Russian, the US and French co-chairs, which began operating in 1996.
Resolutions 822, 853, 874 and 884 of the UN Security Council, which were passed in short intervals in 1993, and other resolutions adopted by the UN General Assembly, PACE, OSCE, OIC, and other organizations require Armenia to unconditionally withdraw its troops from Nagorno-Karabakh.