No fresh ceasefire commitment from Karabakh warring sides


Geneva: Armenia and Azerbaijan did not commit to a fresh ceasefire in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict during talks in Geneva on Friday, but did agree to measures to defuse tensions, including vowing not to target civilians, mediators said.

Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov met in the Swiss city for talks aimed at reining in more than a month of clashes in the disputed region that have killed more than a thousand people.

Mediators from France, Russia and the US — known as the “Minsk Group” — said in a statement they had urged the sides to fully implement a previously agreed ceasefire.

Both sides, the statement said, had “engaged in an open and substantive exchange of views aimed at clarifying their negotiating positions” on sticking points in the ceasefire agreement reached in Moscow on October 10, and subsequently reaffirmed in Paris and Washington.

They had meanwhile “agreed to take a number of steps on an urgent basis,” the statement said.

Both sides had committed to “not deliberately target civilian populations or non-military objects in accordance with international humanitarian law,” it said.

They had also agreed to “actively engage in the implementation of the recovery and exchange of remains on the battlefield.” Both sides also said that within a week they would deliver lists of currently detained war prisoners to the Red Cross “for the purposes of providing access and eventual exchange.” And finally they committed to provide written comments and questions related to discussions around introducing mechanisms to verify if a ceasefire was being upheld.

“The co-chairs will continue working with the sides intensively to find a peaceful settlement of the conflict,” Friday’s statement said.

Azerbaijan and Armenia have been locked in a bitter conflict over Karabakh since Armenian separatists backed by Yerevan seized control of the mountainous province in a 1990s war that left 30,000 people dead.

The current fighting broke out on September 27 and clashes have persisted despite repeated international attempts to secure a ceasefire.

Fighting has intensified in recent days, including with renewed shelling and rocket attacks on civilian areas.

More than 1,200 people from both sides have been reported dead since the fighting began, and thousands forced from their homes.

Azerbaijan has not released military casualty figures and the death toll is believed to be higher, with Russian President Vladimir Putin saying last week close to 5,000 people had been killed.