UN chief urges Karabakh talks under international format

·2-min read
An Azerbaijani soldier stands guard at a checkpoint on a road entering Fizuli from Hadrut on December 2, 2020, a day after Baku's army entered the final district given up by Armenia under a peace deal that ended weeks of fighting over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday called for renewed negotiations over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region under a long-established international process after a ceasefire halted recent fighting there.

Russia, the United States and France co-chair the Minsk Group, which has led talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan seeking a solution to the conflict for decades but has failed to reach a lasting agreement.

Guterres "urges Armenia and Azerbaijan to resume negotiations under the auspices of the OSCE's Minsk Group co-chairs to reach a lasting peaceful settlement," a statement from the UN chief's spokesman said, referring to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The statement said the UN was prepared to respond to humanitarian needs across the region and urged "all relevant actors to cooperate fully with the United Nations entities to ensure their unfettered access."

Nagorno-Karabakh, a region of Azerbaijan populated by ethnic Armenians that broke away from Baku's control in a 1990s post-Soviet war, saw fresh fighting break out in September.

A Russian-brokered ceasefire deal was sealed last month, but Karabakh's future political status remains in limbo.

A joint statement from the United States, Russia and France on Thursday sought to stress the importance of the negotiations they chair, with Turkey having sought a new format that includes it.

Azerbaijan also called for France to be excluded from mediation after the French Senate voted in favor of recognizing Nagorno-Karabakh's independence, though the French government opposes the non-binding resolution.

Turkey is a regional ally of Azerbaijan and has fervently defended its right to reclaim the Nagorno-Karabakh lands that Baku lost to ethnic Armenian separatists in a 1988-94 war.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Thursday that he will visit Azerbaijan on December 9 and 10 following the truce.

Turkey and Russia have agreed to monitor the Karabakh truce from a joint peacekeeping center.

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