MOSCOW, WASHINGTON—Russia, together with other co-chairing countries of the mediating OSCE Minsk Group, will continue targeted efforts in resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s official spokesman said Thursday, a day after Azerbaijani forces shot down an unarmed Artsakh military helicopter, killing three people.
“Russia calls on Armenia and Azerbaijan to refrain from moves which could lead to the escalation of tensions,” the Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said on Thursday, TASS reports.
“We are very concerned about the incident which has led to the deaths of people. We offer our deepest condolences to the families of the victims,” Lukashevich said, adding that Russia’s stance was reflected in the statement of the OSCE Minsk Group on November 12.
The spokesman said that Russia reminds the leadership of Azerbaijan and Armenia of their “responsibility towards complying with their commitments on searching for a peaceful resolution of the conflict which they took at the meeting in Sochi, Newport and Paris.”
The United States and the European Union similarly echoed international mediators’ concerns of an escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resulting from Wednesday’s incident.
The EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, also called for an inquiry into the incident which could lead to another upsurge in fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces, RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) reports.
“It is essential that all sides show restraint and avoid any actions or statements which could escalate the situation. Furthermore, we call for an investigation into this incident,” read a statement issued by Mogherini’s office late on Wednesday.
“Both sides have to strictly respect the ceasefire, to refrain from the use of force or any threat thereof, and to resume efforts towards a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” added the statement.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki similarly said that the incident is “yet another reminder” of the need to reduce tensions in the conflict zone. There can be “no military solution to the conflict,” Psaki told reporters in Washington.
“We urge all sides to respect the ceasefire and not to take any actions to escalate the situation,” Kate Byrnes, the acting head of the U.S. mission to the OSCE, said on Thursday.
Byrnes spoke at a meeting of the OSCE’s governing Permanent Council in Vienna, which discussed the Karabakh conflict and the downing of the Armenian helicopter in particular. The U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group briefed the council on their ongoing efforts to revive the Karabakh peace process.
“A wider conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh is in no one’s interest,” James Warlick, the U.S. co-chair tweeted ahead of the Vienna meeting.
NATO also warned against an escalation in violence. The incident “is absolutely not conducive to the peaceful resolution of this conflict,” NATO’s Liason Officer in the South Caucasus William Lahue told reporters on the sidelines of a workshop for reporters organized within the framework of NATO Week in Armenia.
“Military actions serve to inhibit the ability of the parties to resolve such a conflict,” he said, adding that “NATO would like to see the parties engaged in peaceful negotiations and discussions to resolve this conflict within the OSCE Minsk Group format.”
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) also urged Armenia and Azerbaijan to honor their 20-year-old truce on Thursday, Reuters reports.
The OSCE, which has led talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia since the war, said it should not lead to new violence.
“The OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Swiss Foreign Minister, Didier Burkhalter … appeals to the Presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia to do their utmost to prevent such incidents and to honor the ceasefire regime,” the OSCE said in a statement.
Footage from the Azeri side showed the helicopter explode in the air over the neutral zone between the two sides and officials said the three crew members were killed.
Armenia promised “painful” consequences for Azerbaijan after it downed the helicopter, which had been carrying out training exercises.
The Azeri defense ministry said an army officer had been honored for shooting down the aircraft.