The UN chief remains “deeply concerned” over reports that hostilities in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone are continuing to affect civilians, his spokesperson said on Saturday.
Secretary-General António Guterres condemns the violence and reiterated that “both sides have the obligation, under international humanitarian law, to take utmost care to spare and protect civilians and civilian infrastructure in the conduct of military operations”, according to a statement issued by Stéphane Dujarric.
Nagorno-Karabakh has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces since they fought a war in the 1990s as the Soviet Union was dissolving.
The latest conflict between the two countries, which began on 27 September, marked the worst escalation of fighting since the war’s end and heightened fears of instability in the South Caucasus, a region that provides crucial transit routes for gas and oil to world markets.
Still no humanitarian ceasefire
In an effort to mediate the decades-long conflict, the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan met in Geneva on 30 October for talks brokered by Russia, the United States and France – co-chairs of the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
News media reported that the talks concluded close to midnight with both sides agreeing not to deliberately target civilians or non-military objects, however, shortly after the pledge was announced, the truce was broken.
“The Secretary-General fully supports the call of the co-chairs OSCE Minsk Group for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, as agreed in Moscow on 10 October, and confirmed subsequently in Paris on 17 October and in Washington D.C., on 25 October”, the statement continued, noting that the call was again echoed by the co-chairs in Geneva.
The UN chief called on the sides to “implement, in good faith and on an urgent basis, the concrete steps they agreed to take through the facilitation of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, as well as their previous commitments”.
He also urged the warring parties to continue engaging in “substantive dialogue” and, with the co-chairs, to intensify their efforts to “reach a peaceful and sustainable settlement of the conflict”.