US Urges Return to Truce in Karabakh; Melkoumian Asks OSCE to Monitor Line

WASHINGTON (Reuters)–The United States on Tuesday called for a return to the cease-fire in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict after two people were killed in a skirmish on the Karabakh border.

Azerbaijan and Armenia blamed each other for starting the fighting on Monday–the worst between the two Caucasus neighbors since they signed a cease-fire in 1994.

US State Department spokesman James Rubin said in a statement: "We reiterate the appeal made by the three Minsk Group co-chairmen at the OSCE in Vienna last month calling upon all sides to observe the cease-fire."

Mediators from Russia–the United States and France make up the Minsk Group–which was set up by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

"Any incidents in this volatile area carry the potential for renewed hostilities–so we impress upon all the need to negotiate urgently a comprehensive and durable solution to the conflict based on the proposals advanced by the Minsk Group co-chairs," Rubin added.

Meanwhile in Stepanakert–Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Foreign Minister Naira Melkoumian met Tuesday with field assistant to personal representative of the OSCE Chairman in Office Oesten Larssen to discuss Monday’s shooting incident in the Mardakert sector of the front line–the Noyan Tapan news agency reported Wednesday.

During the meeting Melkoumian described in detail the incident and handed him a statement by the Karabakh Foreign Ministry regarding the incident. She also said that the Karabakh Foreign Ministry would apply to the OSCE Chairman in Office to send a mission of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman in Office to conduct a crisis-monitoring in the indicated sector of the front line with participation–if possible–representatives of member-countries of the OSCE Minsk Group.

Larssen shared the concern of the Karabakh authorities and said that he was ready to convey the proposals of the Karabakh leadership on stabilizing the situation on the front line to the representative of the OSCE Chairman in Office.

Melkoumian also sent a message directly to OSCE Chairman in Office Knut Vollebaek.

She asked the OSCE Chairman in Office to bid the Office of Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman in Office to conduct a crisis monitoring of the indicated sector of the front line to find those responsible for the violation of cease-fire.

Melkoumian noted that fragile peace has been maintained for five years due to efforts of the international community and due to regular monitoring of the front line by the Office of Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman in Office. "Special monitoring in the indicated area will serve as a warning to those forces in Azerbaijan which are interested in escalating of tension. This is why we count on your assistance in preventing such incidents in future," the message says.

The message also contains a proposal to include representatives of member-countries of the OSCE Minsk group accredited in Yerevan into the monitoring mission.

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