OSCE Chairman Kurz makes statement on anniversary of April clashes
- 31 March 2017
OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Austria’s Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, said on Friday that he has joined the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs’ call for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict sides to renew engagement in the political settlement process as expressed in their statement on 29 March.
“The fighting and the violence we witnessed one year ago – the worst in the past two decades – caused destruction, suffering and human losses. It was a vivid reminder of how quickly the machinery of war can undermine efforts for peace,” Kurz said in a statement on the anniversary of the April clashes in Nagorno-Karabakh, APA reported.
“On this occasion, we call on all sides to refrain from any actions that jeopardize the ceasefire. All sides must live up to their commitment to strictly observe their international humanitarian obligations – war crimes can never be justified,” noted the OSCE chairman.
Recalling the outbreak of violence in April 2016 along the Line of Contact, he underlined his hope for fresh impetus in the negotiations: “Clashes and serious violations of the ceasefire on the Line of Contact, resulting in casualties, were of particular concern to us throughout the past year. It is now high time for a focus on pragmatic and practical steps for confidence-building as well as a resumption of substantive negotiations,” emphasized Kurz.
In this context, Kurz voiced his regret at the further loss of lives since the tragic events in April 2016 and expressed his condolences to the affected families.
“The aftershock of the fighting one year ago has made it more difficult for Armenians and Azerbaijanis to believe in peace, but as I have stated on numerous occasions, there is no military solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. We should plan for peace now, and not allow war to return with all of its terrible consequences,” he added.
Kurz also commended the work of Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk and his team, illustrated by the active facilitation of a humanitarian operation by the International Committee of the Red Cross in February 2017 to retrieve the remains of the deceased servicemen.
“The OSCE Chairmanship stands ready to contribute to the efforts of the sides to further advance and implement the agreements reached during the summits in Vienna and St. Petersburg in 2016,” concluded Kurz.
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. 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 earlier said.
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.