EU Hails End Of Nagorno-Karabakh Fighting, Urges Parties To Stick To Cease-Fire

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Russian peacekeepers are stationed outside the town of Kalbacar on November 18, in an area of Azerbaijan being vacated by ethnic Armenians after three decades.

The bloc’s foreign-policy chief, Josep Borrell, in a statement on November 19 urged “all regional actors to refrain from any actions or rhetoric” that could endanger the truce, signed on November 10.

The peace deal reached on November 10 came after Azerbaijani forces made major battlefield gains in the previous six weeks, regaining territory lost to Armenian separatists nearly three decades ago.

The accord allows Azerbaijan to keep a sizable chunk of the mountainous region, as well as all of the area ringing the enclave. Around 2,000 Russian peacekeepers will be deployed to maintain security in the territory for a period of five years.

During the conflict, Russia and Armenia repeatedly voiced concern about the involvement in the conflict of fighters from Syria and Libya who were ostensibly ferried to Nagorno-Karabakh by Turkey, Azerbaijan’s closest ally.

Borrell said the bloc will closely monitor the implementation of the cease-fire, with particular attention to the issue of foreign fighters.

“The EU also calls for the full and prompt withdrawal of all foreign fighters from the region,” he said, adding that the cessation of hostilities was only a first step to end “the long-standing Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”

Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but the ethnic Armenians who make up most of the population reject Azerbaijani rule. They have been governing their own affairs, with support from Armenia, since Azerbaijan’s troops and ethnic Azeri civilians were pushed out of the region in a war that ended in a cease-fire in 1994.

Efforts to resolve the conflict by the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) — co-chaired by Russia, France, and the United States — have not brought any results since the 1990s.

“The EU considers that efforts must be renewed for a negotiated, comprehensive and sustainable settlement of the conflict, including on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh,” Borrell said.

“The EU therefore reiterates its full support to the international format of the OSCE Minsk Group led by its co-chairs and to the personal representative of the OSCE chairperson-in-office to pursue this objective.”

The statement added that the EU was prepared to “effectively contribute in the shaping of a durable and comprehensive settlement of the conflict, including where possible through support for stabilization, postconflict rehabilitation, and confidence-building measures.”

In a separate development, the Russian Foreign Ministry on November 19 announced that over the past six days, Azerbaijan and Armenia had swapped 385 bodies of those killed during the conflict.

“This figure includes casualties on both sides,” spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a briefing on November 19.

With reporting by Interfax and TASS

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