Minsk Group seeking ceasefire in Armenia–Azerbaijan war over Nagorno-Karabakh

MOSCOW — The Minsk Group, represented by Russia, the U.S., and France, issued a joint statement on Monday for an immediate ceasefire in the worsening war between Armenian and Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The joint statement strongly condemned the escalation of violence in the decades old conflict that has seen low-intensity clashes over the years but nothing of this scale or magnitude.

The statement stressed that the recent attacks likely targeted civilian installations within the territory of Azerbaijan and Armenia. The disproportionate intensity of such attacks represents an unacceptable threat to the stability of the region.

The members of the Minsk Group affirmed their continued work in solving the conflict and called on the belligerents to resume constructive peace negotiations based on existing principles and relevant international documents.

Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the recent developments in the Caucasus — which Russia views as its “back yard” — with the Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, stressing the need to end hostilities.

The Putin–Pashinyan called comes shortly after a similar conversation between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Gihon Bayramov. Lavrov stressed the need for a ceasefire in the region and confirmed his country’s readiness to host a joint meeting between Azerbaijan and Armenia in Moscow with the participation of the Minsk Group.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in a decades long dispute over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. From 1988 to 1994, a war was fought between the majority ethnic Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh backed by Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan. By the wars end, Armenian was in full control of the territory with few exceptions, including areas of Azerbaijan outside Nagorno-Karabakh connecting the enclave with Armenia.

Tensions between the two sides even predate the 1988 conflict, with violence occurring between them while they were both republics under Soviet rule.

In July of this year, clashes erupted after an Azerbaijani patrol attempted to cross the border and were met with fire from Armenian forces. Artillery and drone strikes were exchanged between the two sides for days, resulting in over a dozen casualties.

The latest hostilities began in late September as Azerbaijan, bolstered by Turkish support and Syrian mercenaries, launched an all-out offensive against the line of contact in Nagorno-Karabakh. Hundreds have been killed on both sides of the conflict in a week of intense fighting.