By Sara Rajabova
As a solution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict lingers further the international community and Azerbaijani government is looking for new ways to end the long-lasting stalemate in the peace talks.
The United States sees the way to reduce tensions between the sides in increasing people-to-people contacts, especially among the communities of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Armenia’s destructive position in the negotiation process, which has been lasting for 25 years, is a big hindrance in a way to peace. The efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs, tasked to find a peaceful solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, have been largely fruitless so far.
“Armenians and Azerbaijanis lived side-by-side for generations. The co-chairs support programs that will promote these people-to-people contacts as a way to rebuild trust,” the U.S. State Department told AzerNews via email.
The OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs have repeatedly called for establishing a dialogue between the Azerbaijani and Armenian communities of Nagorno-Karabakh to accelerate the negotiations.
However, efforts in this direction haven’t yielded results as the Armenian side with all possible means tries to prevent such a dialogue supporting the current status quo that is unacceptable.
Despite repeated calls by the international community and Baku to contribute to meaningful dialogue between the two communities as a real confidence-building measure, Yerevan impedes the contacts between the Azerbaijani and Armenian communities of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The talks between Azerbaijani and Armenian communities on Nagorno-Karabakh earlier were held in 2007 and 2009. Since then, no meeting took place between the communities due to Armenia’s rejection of such talks.
The State Department further said the U.S. will continue its active engagement with the sides through the Minsk Group process to advance a peaceful and lasting settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
“Our longstanding policy, shared by the Minsk Group co-chairs, is that a just settlement must be based on international law, which includes the Helsinki Final Act and the principles of the non-use of force or threat of force, territorial integrity, and self-determination,” the State Department underlined.
Washington believes that the responsibility for peace falls on the shoulders of the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan.
“We were pleased that the presidents met on December 19 in Bern under the auspices of the Minsk Group co-chairs, and expect the presidents to continue their dialogue on a way forward in 2016. The Minsk Group will continue to support this dialogue,” the State Department said.
The U.S. Co-Chair of the Minsk Group, James Warlick has recently said the co-chairs are determined to continue work on a new meeting of the Azerbaijani and Armenian presidents.
The State Department also voiced concern over the recent escalation of violence and the use of heavy weapons along the contact line of two countries’ troops and Armenia-Azerbaijan border is unacceptable.
“We call for the sides to strictly adhere to the ceasefire regime and to take every precaution to avoid civilian casualties,” the department said.
The intensive ceasefire breaches on the contact line have increased and the situation has worsened even more in recent years. Azerbaijan’s positions come under intensive fire of the Armenian armed forces on a daily basis.
Armenia captured Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding regions from Azerbaijan in a war that followed the Soviet breakup in 1991. More than 20,000 Azerbaijanis were killed and nearly 1 million were displaced as a result of the war.
The peace talks have been largely fruitless so far despite the efforts of the co-chair countries over 20 years.
The sides to the conflict currently hold talks based on the renewed Madrid principles, which envisage return of occupied territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijani control, ensure the right of all internally displaced persons and refugees to return to their former places of residence, future determination of the final legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh and etc.