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Baku Rejects Calls for Sniper Withdrawal
BAKU — Azerbaijan effectively rejected on Thursday renewed international calls for the parties to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to unconditionally withdraw snipers from “the line of contact” and agree to joint investigations of growing truce violations there.
Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore, the chairman-in-office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, voiced such calls when visited Yerevan and Baku this week. He reportedly insisted on the need for a concrete mechanism for such investigations after talks with his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov on Thursday.
News reports quoted Mammadyarov as saying that Baku agrees with the idea, advanced by international mediators, in principle. “But that mechanism could work only when Armenian troops start withdrawing from Azerbaijan’s occupied territories,” he said, according to the APA news agency. “Only in that case can the mechanism be put into action.”
“If we start applying that mechanism now, that will only mean reinforcing the status quo, which is unacceptable,” Mammadyarov told a joint news conference with Gilmore.
“If Armenia does not want its soldiers to die, then it must liberate Azerbaijan’s lands. If this happens, there will be no need for snipers,” added the Azerbaijani foreign minister.
The Armenian side has voiced support for both sniper withdrawal and joint investigations. Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian reaffirmed this stance after his meeting with Gilmore on Tuesday.