OSCE Blames Azerbaijan for Karabakh Arsons

YEREVAN–After weeks of monitoring the region–the OSCE concluded that recent wildfires in Nagorno-Karabakh were a direct result of arson perpetrated by Azerbaijan–reported Armenia’s Foreign Ministry Wednesday in a statement.

A report by a personal representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office Andrzei Kasprchik was delivered to both the Armenian and Azeri foreign ministries–concluding that Azerbaijan was the cause of the wildfires in that area.

"We hope that this will put an to Azerbaijan’s irresponsible and absurd false accusations," said Armenian foreign ministry spokesman Vladimir Karapetian.

The Azeri foreign ministry acknowledged the receipt of the report. A ministry spokesperson said that it will issue a statement after reviewing the entire report.

On Tuesday–the Armenian Foreign Ministry issued an announcement regarding this matter. Below is the translated text of the statement:

"The fires on the Nagorno Karabakh territory bordering with Azerbaijan have been taking place since early June 2006. The situation is a subject of serious concern for the Karabakh leadership–since it poses a threat for the security of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and its population.

"A special commission formed by the representatives of the ministries and departmen’s responsible for security issues has been established in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic to study the circumstances and reveal the reasons of the fires. The subunits of fire-prevention service–the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Department for Emergency Situations and the leadership of local administrations and population have been mobilized for the localization of the centers of the fires and non-admission of fire spreading. A twenty-four-hour duty has been organized in all the communities to prevent emergency situations.

"However–the situation in the regions is deteriorating due to the fires and is ripe with unfavorable long-term consequences for the Nagorno Karabakh Republic agriculture and food security. The number and area of the fires at wheat fields on the territories bordering with Azerbaijan have sharply risen.

"As a result of the work of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic special commission–indisputable data indicate that the reasons for the fires were hostile activities by Azeris. By these actions official Baku pursues an agenda to erode the Nagorno Karabakh Republic’s economy and deprive it of the possibility of development. In order to conceal its intentions–the Azeri leadership–from the very outset–has launched a wide-ranging campaign both in the local and foreign mass media–in an attempt to lay the blame on Karabakh. This campaign is a continuation of the propaganda and the psychological war against the people of Nagorno Karabakh and is blatant attempt to hide this act of aggression.

"We would like to remind that as early as in 2001–the Nagorno Karabakh Republic authorities suggested via the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairmen on the Nagorno Karabakh conflict resolution–a package of measures on establishing confidence between the parties to the conflict. In particular–we offered cooperation in fire prevention on pastures and agricultural territories in the bordering regions. Regrettably–official Stepanakert’s initiatives were not supported at the time in Baku and were not honored with due attention by the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairmen.

"Moreover–as early as June 15–2006–the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Ministry of Foreign Affairs addressed a request to the Office of the OSCE Chairman-in Office’s Personal Representative to hold a crisis monitoring on territory bordering with Azerbaijan to estimate the real situation on the spot and refute the Azeri party’s vain accusations.

"We draw the attention of the international community and especially the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairmen to the Stepanakert’s right–in the event Azerbaijan’s hostile activities are not addressed–to undertake adequate measures of response to ensure the Republic’s security".

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