By Omer Tugrul Cam
BRUSSELS (AA) – NATO is not a part of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, the NATO secretary-general said on Wednesday.
“I reminded the [Armenian] president that NATO is not part of this conflict. Both Armenia and Azerbaijan have been valued NATO partners for more than 25 years,” said Jens Stoltenberg in a joint news conference with Armenia's President Armen Sarkissian.
“NATO is deeply concerned by ongoing violations of the cease-fire, which have caused tragic loss of life,” said Stoltenberg, adding that ending hostilities and sufferings is important for both the alliance and international security.
“It is vital that all sides now show restraint, observe the cease-fire, and de-escalate. Any targeting of civilians is unacceptable and must stop,” he said.
– New clashes
Since fresh clashes erupted on Sept. 27, Armenia has continued its attacks on civilians and Azerbaijani forces, even violating humanitarian cease-fire agreements.
In two missile attacks on Ganja, a major Azerbaijani city far from the front line, Armenia killed some two dozen civilians, including children, and injured scores more.
Last Thursday, Armenia targeted civilians at a cemetery in the western city of Tartar, killing four and injuring four others.
Since Oct. 10, Armenia has violated two humanitarian cease-fires in Upper Karabakh, or Nagorno-Karabakh, an internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan.
A new humanitarian cease-fire entered into force last Saturday.
– Upper Karabakh conflict
Relations between the two former Soviet republics have been tense since 1991, when the Armenian military occupied Upper Karabakh.
Four UN Security Council resolutions and two from the UN General Assembly, as well as international organizations, demand the “immediate complete and unconditional withdrawal of the occupying forces” from occupied Azerbaijani territory.
In total, about 20% of Azerbaijan's territory — including Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent regions — has been under illegal Armenian occupation for nearly three decades.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group — co-chaired by France, Russia, and the US — was formed in 1992 to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, but to no avail. A cease-fire, however, was agreed to in 1994.
World powers, including Russia, France, and the US, have called for a sustainable cease-fire. Turkey, meanwhile, has supported Baku's right to self-defense and demanded the withdrawal of Armenia's occupying forces.
*Writing by Busra Nur Bilgic Cakmak in Ankara