MOSCOW, August 02 /ITAR-TASS/. Moscow on Saturday voiced concern about the latest flare-ups in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict area and urged the parties involved to refrain from using force and take steps towards stabilising the situation in the region.
“We express serious concern about the dramatic deterioration of the situation in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict area, which has resulted in considerable casualties,” Foreign Ministry Deputy Spokesperson Maria Zakharova said.
“We regard the latest events as a serious violation of the ceasefire and the declared intentions to achieve a political settlement,” she said, adding that further escalation would be unacceptable.
Four Azerbaijani army servicemen were killed in overnight clashes, the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry said, adding that Armenians had also sustained casualties but did not elaborate.
Defence Ministry spokesperson Vagif Dargyakhly denied media reports alleging that the Azerbaijani army was using guided missile systems against Armenian troops.
“Units of the country’s Armed Forces are taking adequate measures in response to ceasefire violations by the Armenian side. But they are using only large caliber firearms,” he said.
He confirmed that 12 Azerbaijani troops had been killed in the conflict area over the past four days and several had been wounded, but did not specify.
The spokesperson said the current situation in the region was relatively calm.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said in July that his country was using political and economic factors to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict peacefully.
He stressed that Azerbaijan could solve the problem by force, but “we think the potential of negotiations has not been used up yet”.
“Using political, economic and military pressure we will try to get the issue solved peacefully. Our economic, political and military potential is quite strong and this factor will play a positive role at the talks,” the president said, adding that the conflict could not remain frozen.
Aliyev regretted the absence of progress in the resolution of the conflict despite the international mediators’ efforts. “We are of the opinion that the mediators dealing with this [Karabakh] issue are more interested in keeping the situation in its present state. Their main interest is in preserving stability and preventing a war in the region. We also want peace. But at the same time we want to see truth and justice restored and international law triumphing,” he said.
The president also believes that the conflict should be settled “cardinally”. “Half-solutions can only be an interim step. We should not forget the main goal. The people of Azerbaijan should return to the occupied territories,” he said.
He stressed that Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenians could get a high status of autonomy within Azerbaijan. “We proposed this and this approach is based on the most positive experience the world and Europe have,” he added.
The Armenian president’s spokesperson Arman Sagatelyan said on Saturday that the conflict could not be resolved by force.
“Armenia is convinced that there can be no military solution to the Karabakh conflict,” he said. “The truce agreement signed in 1994 clearly states the parties’ legal obligations that must be respected. The Nagorno-Karabakh problem can only be resolved through peace negotiation,” Sagatelyan said.
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict began on February 22, 1988. On November 29, 1989 direct rule in Nagorno-Karabakh was ended and Azerbaijan regained control of the region. However later a joint session of the Armenian parliament and the top legislative body of Nagorno-Karabakh proclaimed the unification of Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia.
On December 10, 1991, Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh held a referendum, boycotted by local Azeris, which approved the creation of an independent state.
The struggle over Nagorno-Karabakh escalated after both Armenia and Azerbaijan obtained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. By the end of 1993, the conflict had caused thousands of casualties and created hundreds of thousands of refugees on both sides. An unofficial ceasefire was reached on May 12, 1994.
As of August, 2008, the co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group were attempting to negotiate a full settlement of the conflict. On August 2, 2008, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan travelled to Moscow for talks with Dmitry Medvedev, who was Russian president at the time. As a result, the three presidents signed an agreement that calls for talks on a political settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.