Baku. Malahat Najafova – APA. US Ambassador to Azerbaijan Robert Cekuta said on Friday that he had a number of discussions over the past few days with top Azerbaijani officials on the statement recently made by Secretary of State John Kerry.
Speaking to APA, the ambassador noted that the US has made a number of statements – including during President Ilham Aliyev’s visit to Washington in March – regarding the need to respect Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and the other principles that need to be taken into account in reaching a settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
“I am not going to parse what the Secretary said, but I can say that I have had a number of discussions over the past few days with top level Azerbaijanis on this,” he said.
“Regarding the role of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs, I would say that we look to them to bring the sides together, to identify issues and see where there are ways the parties can move towards a settlement. However, as we have said in the past, the parties themselves are the only ones who can agree to a settlement; it cannot be achieved by force and it can’t be forced from outside,” said Cekuta. “And along these lines, I noted what Novruz Mammadov told the meeting this morning regarding Azerbaijan’s readiness to act to realize a peaceful settlement, something I will be, of course, reporting back to Washington.”
“We remain concerned about the incidents that continue to occur and that we deeply regret any loss of life in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and express our sincere and deepest condolences,” added the US ambassador.
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.