Nagorno Karabakh Cease-Fire Holding

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(Combined
Sources) – Yesterday, the Nagorno Karabakh Republic (NKR) and Azerbaijan
reached a cease-fire after three days of intense fighting. Reports show the
cessation of hostilities seems to be holding.

Fighting
broke out between NKR defense forces and Azerbaijani forces on April 2, which
was the heaviest seen in the territory in two decades.

Azerbaijan
and Armenia fought a war over the territory from 1988 to 1994 that claimed
the lives of more than 30,000 people. The conflict is generally considered to
be “frozen.” Since then, internationally  mediated negotiations have failed to achieve
a resolution, leading to sporadic violence breaking out over the years.

After the
truce went into effect on April 5, both Russia and the United States were
optimistic, but the two warring sides were urged to return to the negotiating
table.

The
co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group mediating the conflict, including
representatives from France, Russia, and the United States, met with
Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev in Baku on April 6. The mediators
“stressed that it is important to return to the political process on the
basis of a sustainable cease-fire.”

Russian
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov headed to
Azerbaijan’s capital today as well.

President
Serzh Sargsyan met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Joachim
Gauck in Berlin today, discussing the recent developments in NKR. “The Minsk
group has an important role to play in the resolution of this conflict. We are
trying within the Minsk Group, as well as with the OSCE, to accelerate the
process of maintaining the cease-fire for both sides,” Merkel said.

Armenian
Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian and his German counterpart, Frank-Walter
Steinmeiner
, also joined President Sargsyan in a later meeting. The Minister of
Foreign Affairs of Germany reiterated his appeal to the parties of the conflict
and underscored once again that the NKR conflict has “no military solution.”
Steinmeiner said the parties must return to the negotiations conducted in the
framework of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs. He also stressed the importance of
implementing “confidence building measures” as well as monitoring the Line of
Contact by the Office of the Personal Representative of the OSCE
Chairman-in-Office.

Each side
has accused the other of starting the latest outbreak of violence, which has
involved tanks, helicopters, and artillery. However, experts from Chatham House
and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace conclude that Azerbaijan
launched the April 2-5 military offensive.

Azerbaijan’s
Defense Ministry has reported that 31 Azerbaijani servicemen have been killed
in the fighting, while one helicopter and one tank have been lost.

Earlier this
morning, Karabakh’s defense forces said that “last night, the cease-fire
was generally maintained” along the Line of Contact. The military added
that “sporadic shooting” had taken place despite the cease-fire but
it had no impact on the general situation.

On the
Armenian side, at least 29 fighters have been killed and 28 others are missing
in action.

A number of
civilians were also reported killed on both sides, along with Armenian
“volunteers.“

Azerbaijan’s
army claims to have taken control of several strategic locations inside NKR,
which Armenia and Karabakh deny.

"It’s a
very nascent cease-fire, but we’re encouraged that it does seem to have taken
hold,” U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters. “We
are actively engaging with both sides to urge them to strictly adhere to the
cease-fire.”

On April 5
in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin called the Azerbaijani and Armenian
presidents after the cease-fire agreement and told them to “ensure”
an end to the violence. Azerbaijani President Aliyev said the conflict could be
solved peacefully if the Armenian leadership “behaves sincerely at the
negotiating table.”

In response,
Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharian said the unrecognized
Nagorno Karabakh Republic’s involvement in the negotiating process is “a
priority goal.“ “This has no alternative,” he said.

In the U.S,
Armenian American groups called on the Obama administration to take decisive
action.

“The current situation demands much more than condemnation – a robust and immediate response from the United States is needed to stop the pattern,” stated Anthony Barsamian and Van
Krikorian, board of trustees co-chairs of the Armenian Assembly of America in a
letter to Secretary of State John Kerry.

Photo
Caption: Nagorno Karabakh defense forces man an artillery position in
southeastern Nagorno Karabakh on April 5.

Video
Caption: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan
comment on the conflict in the Nagorno Karabakh Republic.

About Armenian Assembly of America

Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.
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