Baku – APA. The unlawful presence of the armed forces of Armenia in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan remains the main cause of escalation in the conflict zone and is a major impediment to political settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov said.
He made the remarks during the 23rd OSCE Ministerial Council in Hamburg Dec. 8.
Mamamdyarov noted that unresolved armed conflicts and crises in the OSCE area, new wave of terrorist attacks across Europe and beyond and large-scale displacement of people due to the conflicts are among the acute problems that continue to endanger peace and security and require urgent action.
The April escalation of the [Nagorno-Karabakh conflict] was a vivid reminder that today’s situation existing on the line of contact of Armenia and Azerbaijani troops is dangerous and has a potential to worsen at any time with unpredictable consequences, the FM stressed.
“It is plausible that there is almost a unanimous position within OSCE that the status-quo in the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is unsustainable and must change. Azerbaijan is the most interested party in moving beyond the current status-quo,” Mammadyarov said, adding. “In this context, we assess the high-level substantive discussions in Vienna and St. Petersburg as positive steps in the right direction and we are thankful to the co-chair countries, particularly to Russian President Vladimir Putin for all his efforts in this regard.”
He stressed the need to sustain the momentum and transform the understandings reached in those meetings into concrete actions without further delay. “We expect the OSCE and its Minsk Group to play an instrumental role to this end,” said Mammadyarov.
The foreign minister expressed hope that a step-by-step elimination of the consequences of the conflict, starting with withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, restoration of regional transportation and communication links and safe and dignified return of displaced persons to their places of origin, while addressing security concerns appropriately, will transform the conflict dynamics and significantly improve the overall security environment in the whole region.
“This approach is based on the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions and affirmed in the decisions of the OSCE, notably in the Budapest Summit decision of 1994,” he added.
Mammadyarov recalled that as confidence-building measures, an agreement was reached to expand the Office of the Permanent Representative of the Chairman-in-Office, provided that this expansion is synchronized with substantive negotiations and does not change Office’s mandate and modus operandi.
Azerbaijan submitted its proposal in this regard and we expect constructive talks to this end as we are speaking about activities of this mission on the sovereign and internationally recognized territories of Azerbaijan.
“Unfortunately, statements that we hear through the last few months from the Armenian side do not give a reason for optimism and indicate the apparent unwillingness of the Armenian side to engage constructively in result-oriented talks,” Mammadyarov said, adding. “Attempts to precondition the substantive negotiations undermine the Vienna and St. Petersburg agreements and pursue the obvious goal to derail the peace process. Continued efforts of Armenia to strengthen its military build-up in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, illegally change the demographic, cultural and physical character of these territories undermine trust and reveal true intentions of the Armenian side.”
“The months ahead will demonstrate if Armenia is a serious partner for peace, genuinely interested in engaging constructively in substantive negotiations to resolve the conflict or we will continue down the road of further instability and conflict,” Mammadyarov concluded.
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 Dec.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.