BAKU, April 4. /TASS/. Azerbaijan has voiced its position as to the reasons behind the worsening of the situation on the line of contact separating the conflicting parties in the conflict around the mostly Armenian populated Azerbaijani enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.
On Monday, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov sent letters to the countries of the OSCE Minsk Group mediating peace negotiations, the CIS states, Germany holding the OSCE chairmanship, the secretary general of the United Nations, of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and of NATO, as well as to the EU foreign policy chief.
"In response to Armenian side’s intensive shelling of Azerbaijani army positions and civilians living in the near-front zone with the use of heavy weapons, which lead to the death of several civilians, the Azerbaijani side has taken necessary measures to ensure safety of its citizens and to stop Armenian provocations, acting within the framework of internationally recognized borders," said the letter of Elmar Mamedyarov.
"The main reason of an ongoing conflict and escalating tensions is illegal presence of the armed forces of Armenia on occupied territories of Azerbaijan," he said.
The foreign minister urged Armenia "to put an end to its annexationist policy, withdraw its troops from all occupied Azerbaijani territories, constructively participate in the negotiations and comply with the international commitments it assumed".
As for Armenia's position, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan said on Monday that Yerevan would recognize the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh if hostilities in the region intensified. The president said that while receiving ambassadors of the member states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
"As a party to the 1994 ceasefire agreement, Armenia will continue to fulfil its duties to ensure security of the Nagorno-Karabakh population", he said. Sargsyan added that he "gave orders to work on concluding an agreement on mutual military assistance with Nagorno-Karabakh." According to him, "If military operations continue and become large-scale, Armenia will recognize the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh."
"The further aggravation of hostilities may have unpredictable and irreversible consequences, up to a full-scale war", the Armenian president said. "This, of course, will have an impact on security and stability not only in the South Caucasus, but also in the European region," he said.
"Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh favor the cessation of military activities and strict observance of the ceasefire established in 1994," he said. "They would like all military units to return to the positions and the barracks they occupied until April 1."
"To preserve the truce the OSCE should take some stabilizing steps," Sargsyan said. These could be "above all, the introduction of the mechanism of investigating the truce violations and a substantial increase in the monitoring capabilities of the personal envoy of the current OSCE chairperson-in-office for the Nagorno-Karabakh issues," the Armenian leader said. According to him, "It is necessary to increase the number of field assistants of the personal envoy of the current OSCE chairperson-in-office who register the truce violations."
Sargsyan noted that "it is clear that the cessation of hostilities and peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem in general stems from the interests of European countries, and the OSCE as an agency playing a key role in ensuring security in Europe is assigned a special role in this matter." "We expect all parties concerned about regional peace to demand explanations from Baku regarding the reasons for the commencement of hostilities," the president said.
Neighbouring Armenia and Azerbaijan fell out with each other in the late 1980s because of Nagorno-Karabakh, the disputed territory that had been part of Azerbaijan before the Soviet Union break-up but was mainly populated by Armenians.
In 1991-1994, the confrontation spilled over into large-scale military action for control over the enclave and some adjacent territories. Thousands left their homes on both sides in a conflict that killed 30,000. A truce was called between Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh republic on one side and Azerbaijan on the other in May 1994.
Talks on Nagorno-Karabakh have been held on the basis of the so-called Madrid Principles suggested by co-chairs of the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) - Russia, France and the United States - in December 2007 in the Spanish capital.
They include three key principles written in the Helsinki Final Act: refraining from the threat or use of force, territorial integrity and the right to self-determination.
Tensions in Nagorno-Karabakh soared along the engagement line separating the conflicting parties in the small hours of April 2. Fierce clashes followed. Either side blamed the other for breaching truce.