Solana’s Call for Peaceful Solution Eclipsed by More Karabakh Cease-fire Violations

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–The EU’s Foreign and Security Policy Chief’s Monday reiterated the European Union’s position that there could be no military solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict. His statement came as news broke of renewed violations of the Nagorno-Karabakh Cease-fire regime by Azeri Defense Forces over the weekend.

"There is no military solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict," Javier Solana was quoted by ArmRadio as saying Monday in an interview with the Azeri Day.az online publication.

This reality should be clear to all after the crisis in Georgia last August, said Solana, invoking the brief but devastating that sparked between Russia and Georgia after Tbilisi tried to invade and recapture its breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Solana’s remarks came as the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Ministry reported Monday that Azerbaijani Armed Forces violated the cease-fire regime over the weekend, opening fire on Karabakh defense positions located in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s Mardakert Region as well as across the line of contact at Horadiz, Karakhambel, Korapatkino, Bashkavert.

The cease-fire violations came a week after reports indicating a similar incident along the Armenian-Azerbaijani line of contact east of Nagorno-Karabakh. The Azeri invoked shooting, which broke out near the Armenian town of Aghdam, resulted in three Armenian deaths and several injuries.

“Karabakh Defense Regimen’s on duty at the time discovered all the fire points of the Azerbaijani armed forces, undertook relevant actions and confidently suppressed the fire without any losses,” the Defense Ministry said. “The armed forces are in control of the situation on the front line and in case of necessity are ready to suppress any aggressive steps undertaken by the rival.”

Ceasefire violations appear to have become more frequent last year prompting serious concern from foreign powers seeking to broker a peaceful solution to the Karabakh conflict. In a joint statement issued in early December, top diplomats from the United States, Russia and France called on the conflicting parties to bolster the ceasefire regime by pulling back snipers from their frontline positions

“In this spirit, we warmly welcomed that the Presidents of both Azerbaijan and Armenia committed themselves in Moscow last year to a peaceful settlement of the conflict,” Solana told Day.az. “This new dynamic should be maintained with concrete actions and determination.”

Solana reiterated the EU’s backing for a mediated solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict through the OSCE Minsk Group, which has been working with Yerevan and Baku for a settlement of the longstanding conflict since the early 90s.

“The EU fully supports the OSCE Minsk Group efforts and remains ready to assist through confidence-building measures and people-to-people contacts,” he said.

International mediators from the Minsk Group late last month gave a positive assessment of the latest meeting between Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s presidents and expressed hope that the two sides will seal a framework peace agreement on Nagorno-Karabakh “in the nearest future.”

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian and Azeri President Ilham Aliyev met in the presence of the U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group in a one-to-one format in Zurich on January 27.

Sarkisian’s office described the Zurich talks as “positive and constructive.” But Aliyev’s assessment of the talks seemed less positive. "There were no breakthroughs, just discussion of the different difficult issues," Azerbaijani presidential spokesman Azer Gasymov said, according to the Associated Press.

In a joint statement released late last week, the mediators said they hope to broker a framework peace accord on Karabakh in the first half of this year. This is the third meeting between the two leaders since Sarkisian became president early last year.

Solana on Monday stressed that “a viable, negotiated settlement” to the conflict would “contribute greatly” to the region’s stability, security and progress. “My representative Peter Semneby is working hard in this direction and he has my full support,” he said.

The Minsk Group co-chairs are scheduled to visit the conflict zone next this month to try to “keep up the positive momentum” in the negotiating process and help the conflicting parties overcome their remaining disagreemen’s on the basic principles of a Karabakh settlement proposed by the mediators, added the statement.

The principles in question call for a gradual resolution of the Karabakh conflict that would culminate in a referendum of self-determination in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. It also envisages the transfer to Azerbaijani control of at least six of the seven historic Armenian districts around Karabakh that were fully or partly liberated by Karabakh’s indigenous Armenian population during the 1991-1994 war.

The conflicting parties have disagreed, at least until now, on key details of the proposed referendum as well as the timetable for Armenian troop withdrawal from the territories. They continue to take diametrically opposite positions in public, with Baku saying that it will never agree to the loss of Karabakh and the Armenia’s ruling out the territory’s return under Azerbaijani rule.

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