TASS, October 3. The Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group Igor Popov (Russia), Stephane Visconti (France), and Andrew Schofer (the U.S.) called on the parties in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to remove the bodies of soldiers who died as a result of the clashes. Their statement was published on the OSCE website on Friday.
The Co-Chairs "call urgently for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to enable the repatriation of remains of fallen servicemen in coordination with the OSCE and ICRC (the International Committee of the Red Cross -TASS)."
The Co-Chairs also stressed that "participation in the escalating violence by external parties undermines efforts to achieve lasting peace in the region."
"Recalling the October 1 statement of the Presidents of the three Co-Chair countries, the Co-Chairs once again call for an immediate cessation of hostilities and the resumption of substantive negotiations, in good faith and without preconditions," the officials said.
"The Co-Chairs strongly condemn the continued violence in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone as well as against targets in the territory of Armenia and Azerbaijan away from the Line of Contact, and express our alarm at reports of increasing civilian casualties. Targeting or threatening civilians is never acceptable under any circumstances. The Co-Chairs call on the sides to observe fully their international obligations to protect civilian populations," according to the statement.
Situation in Nagorno-Karabakh region
On October 1, Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia, Donald Trump of the United States and Emmanuel Macron of France in a joint statement called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to end hostilities and to resume talks on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict without preconditions.
Renewed clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenia erupted on September 27, with intense battles raging in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The area experienced flare-ups of violence in the summer of 2014, in April 2016 and this past July. Azerbaijan and Armenia have imposed martial law and launched mobilization efforts. Both parties to the conflict have reported casualties, among them civilians.
The conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed territory that had been part of Azerbaijan before the Soviet Union break-up, but primarily populated by ethnic Armenians, broke out in February 1988 after the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region announced its withdrawal from the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1992-1994, tensions boiled over and exploded into large-scale military action for control over the enclave and seven adjacent territories after Azerbaijan lost control of them. Talks on the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement have been ongoing since 1992 under the OSCE Minsk Group, led by its three co-chairs - Russia, France and the United States.