MUNICH /Germany/, February 17. /TASS/. Co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, mediating the Nagorno Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, are convinced that the disputed region's final status cannot be determined by the upcoming February 20 constitutional referendum.
The Co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group (Ambassadors Igor Popov of the Russian Federation, Stephane Visconti of France and Richard Hoagland of the United States of America) met Thursday with the Foreign Minister of Armenia Edward Nalbandian and the Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Elmar Mammadyarov, separately and then jointly. The Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk, also participated in the meetings.
The Co-chairs said in a joint statement, released on Friday, that they were "aware that a so-called constitutional referendum is scheduled to take place in Nagorno-Karabakh on February 20, 2017."
"Although the Co-Chairs note that the de-facto Nagorno-Karabakh authorities view the use of such a procedure as an effort to organize the public life of their population, they underscore again that no countries, including Armenia and Azerbaijan, recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent and sovereign state," the statement reads.
"Accordingly, the Co-Chairs do not accept the results of the referendum on February 20 as affecting the legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh. The Co-Chairs also stress that the results in no way prejudge the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh or the outcome of the ongoing negotiations to bring a lasting and peaceful settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict," the co-chairmen said.
The co-chairs reiterated that there is no alternative to a peaceful solution to the conflict and that war is not an option, and called upon the sides to exercise restraint on the terrain as well as in their public communications and to prepare their population for peace and not for war.
They also urged the sides to adhere strictly to the 1994/95 ceasefire agreements that lay the basis for the cessation of hostilities.
"The Co-Chairs stressed to the Ministers the need to demonstrate greater flexibility and to resume comprehensive negotiations on reaching a lasting settlement as soon as possible," the statement reads.
The Minsk Group on settlement in Nagorno-Karabakh comprises Belarus, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Finland and Turkey, as well as Armenia and Azerbaijan. The group is co-chaired by France, Russia and the United States.
The OSCE Minsk Group acts as a mediator. It is a mechanism designed to promote a peace solution to the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Nagorno-Karabakh sought independence from Azerbaijan at the end of the 1980s, which resulted in a war between Azerbaijan and Armenia that claimed the lives of 25,000-30,000 people between 1988 and 1994. Since then, the territory has been controlled by Armenia.