Guterres welcomes continuing ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the continuing ceasefire in and around the conflict-ridden Nagorno-Karabakh region, saying the world body stands ready to provide humanitarian support.

“The Secretary-General takes note of the December 3 joint statement on the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh by the heads of delegation of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) Minsk Group Co-Chair countries,” Xinhua news agency quoted Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN chief, as saying in a statement on Saturday.

“He welcomes the continuing adherence to the ceasefire in accordance with the November 9 joint statement and calls on all concerned to continue implementing their obligations, notably as they relate to international humanitarian law and human rights law,” the statement said.

Guterres made clear that the UN “is prepared to respond to the humanitarian needs in all areas affected by the conflict, and to scale up ongoing assistance in Armenia and Azerbaijan, as required”.

“He calls on all relevant actors to cooperate fully with the United Nations entities to ensure their unfettered access.”

The UN chief further urged Armenia and Azerbaijan “to resume negotiations under the auspices of the OSCE’s Minsk Group Co-Chairs to reach a lasting peaceful settlement”.

“He encourages the governments and the people of Armenia and Azerbaijan to embark on a path of dialogue to foster regional peace, stability, and prosperity,” the statement said.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a joint statement on November 9, agreeing to a complete ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The agreement led to the deployment of thousands of Russian peacekeepers to the enclave and border regions, after six weeks of escalating conflict over Nagorno-Karabkh, which reportedly left thousands dead and more displaced.

This is the fourth ceasefire since last month.

The three other ceasefires — two brokered by Russia (October 10, 17) and one by the US (October 26) — collapsed after Armenia and Azerbaijan traded accusations and attacks.

A new round of armed conflict broke out on September 27 along the contact line of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but mostly governed by the Republic of Artsakh, a de facto independent state with an Armenian ethnic majority.

The area experienced flare-ups of violence in the summer of 2014, April 2016 and in July this year.

Armenia and Azerbaijan went to war over the region in 1988-94, eventually declaring a ceasefire.

However, a settlement was never reached.