Politics

Nagorno-Karabakh: Agreement on steps to relax

Armenia and Azerbaijan want to protect the population and exchange prisoners in the event of attacks.

In the bloody conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh in the South Caucasus, Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed on a series of steps to de-escalate, according to mediators. There should be no more targeted attacks on the population and on civilian objects. The foreign ministers of both countries agreed on this on Friday evening after hours of negotiations in Geneva, Switzerland. This was announced by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

About 130 civilians were recently killed in the fighting. In addition, the bodies of killed soldiers are to be recovered and exchanged. For example, the International Red Cross should receive security guarantees. In addition, both sides are to submit a list of the detained prisoners of war within a week “in order to enable access and possible exchange,” as the communication went on to say. The bodies of fallen soldiers should be handed over to their respective countries. In addition, the two countries had agreed to agree on possible mechanisms for monitoring a ceasefire.

More than 1000 soldiers killed

The talks between the Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian and his Azerbaijani colleague Jeyhun Bayramov lasted about six hours. They met with representatives of the so-called OSCE Minsk Group with Co-Chairs Russia, France and the USA. The heavy fighting has been going on since the end of September. The Nagorno-Karabakh authorities spoke of more than 1,000 soldiers killed. With reference to martial law, Azerbaijan did not provide any information about losses in its own military.

There have already been three attempts at a ceasefire in the past few weeks. Two took place with the mediation of Russia and one a few days ago after talks between the foreign ministers of both countries and the US government. All agreements were broken shortly afterwards. Both sides blamed each other for this. The OSCE Minsk Group again called for a ceasefire.

Decades of conflict

The conflict has been going on for decades. Azerbaijan lost control of the area with around 145,000 residents in a war after the collapse of the Soviet Union around 30 years ago. A fragile ceasefire has existed since 1994. The region is controlled by Armenia, but under international law it belongs to the Islamic Azerbaijan, which can rely on its “brother state” Turkey in the conflict. Russia is the protecting power of Armenia.

There had been further fighting on Friday. According to Armenia, the fighting was concentrated in the south of Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan reported the capture of several villages.

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