A senior U.S. official urged Azerbaijan and Armenia to de-escalate from recent violence and stop the use of heavy weapons in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, which Azerbaijani officials assert is under Armenian occupation.
The latest reports confirm the U.S. is concerned that a more bloody conflict may emerge in the long run which may destabilize the region, further enflaming the chaos ensuing in the Middle East. A statement released by the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry last week accused Armenia of violating the cease-fire between the two countries 121 times in just one day. Azerbaijani forces responded with 122 strikes on Armenian positions, the statement said.
U.S. Ambassador James Warlick, co-chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) Minsk Group, told Daily Sabah that the ongoing violence was unacceptable.
He said that the U.S. was calling for both sides to strictly adhere to the cease-fire regime and take every precaution to avoid civilian casualties. Armenian media reported that 25 Armenian soldiers and three civilians died in fighting in 2015. Several Azerbaijani soldiers reportedly died in clashes.
"Another way to reduce tensions is to increase people-to-people contacts, especially among the communities of Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenians and Azerbaijanis have lived side-by-side for generations," the ambassador wrote in an email.
Turkey for its part is disturbed by the recent rise of violence along the border and supports finding prompt solutions to the conflict. Turkish Foreign Minister Cavuşoğlu said last week that the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute also relates to Turkey, that the "normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations is not possible without the liberation of the occupied territories of Azerbaijan."
Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and Azerbaijani President İlham Aliyev met last month in Bern to settle their differences over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Increased violence has European leaders worried about whether both leaders are committed to resolve the problem.
Although OSCE mediators praised the meeting, the leaders do not seem to alter their positions as the status-quo is getting entrenched day by day.
Ambassador Warlick said as co-chairs of the OSCE, America would continue their active engagement with both countries, but ultimately the responsibility for peace falls on the shoulders of the presidents.
"Our longstanding policy, shared by our Minsk Group Co-Chairs, is that a just settlement must be based on international law… and the principles of the non-use of force or threat of force, territorial integrity, and self-determination," Warlick added.
The conflict, which began in 1988 when Armenia annexed the disputed territory despite protests from the international community, has so far led to the death of over 30,000 people. Armenia has ignored four U.N. Security Council resolutions calling for the withdrawal of Armenian forces from Nagorno-Karabakh.