The United States, Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, James Warlick, Igor Popov and Jacques Faure, have issued a statement on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the 1994 ceasefire agreement, questioning the conflicting parties’ declared commitment to peace and urging to build on a “promising renewal of dialogue”. The statement reads:
“On the twentieth anniversary of the 1994 ceasefire agreement, the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs invite the people of the region to reflect upon the legacy of the past two decades.
That agreement brought an end to outright war, halted the tragic violence of previous years, and laid the groundwork for negotiations that offered the sides a path to peace. Thanks to the resulting truce a new generation of Armenians and Azerbaijanis grew up without experiencing the horrors of war. The sides should do everything possible to protect future generations from such experience.
The ceasefire agreement did not, however, resolve the underlying conflict. It left the territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh occupied and failed to provide a path forward on status for Nagorno-Karabakh. The absence of a final settlement has resulted in the ongoing displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, the perpetual threat of escalating violence along the international border and the Line of Contact, and a misconception in some quarters that the status quo can be sustained indefinitely.
The sides have shown little willingness to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the co-chairs countries or make the political decisions necessary for progress in this peace process.
We share a common position on this conflict, and remain firmly committed to helping the sides reach a peaceful settlement as soon as possible based on the core principles of the UN Charter and the Helsinki Final Act, particularly those pertaining to the non-use of force, territorial integrity, and equal rights and self-determination of peoples. A settlement will have to include the elements outlined by the Presidents of the co-chair countries in statements from 2009 to 2013, which include the return of the territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh, interim status for Nagorno-Karabakh guaranteeing security and self-governance, a corridor linking Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh, final status of Nagorno-Karabakh to be determined in the future by a legally-binding expression of will, the right of all internally-displaced persons and refugees to return, and international security guarantees, including a peacekeeping operation. In November we saw a promising renewal of dialogue at the highest levels. We call on the sides to enter into constructive, good-faith negotiations resulting in a peace agreement based on these elements in order to bring about a lasting settlement to the conflict.
Such a settlement will not be possible without a basis of trust and understanding between the Armenian and Azerbaijani people. We call on the sides to commit to active people to people programs and security confidence building measures to reinforce the peace process.
Armenians and Azerbaijanis deserve to live in peace and security, and we stand ready to help. The sides must take the necessary steps towards peace. When they do, it will be with the full support of the OSCE and the international community.”
The Russian-brokered agreement signed in May 1994 by the defense chiefs of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Karabakh ended nearly three years of fierce fighting that left the Armenian side in control of almost the whole of Karabakh and Azerbaijani districts surrounding the disputed enclave.
Around 7,000 Armenian soldiers and over 1,260 civilians, the vast majority of them Karabakh residents, died during the war. Azerbaijan publicized early this year an incomplete official list of over 11,500 combat deaths. The late President Heydar Aliyev spoke of some 21,000 Azerbaijani war casualties, including civilians.
The warring sides have suffered hundreds of more casualties since May 1994. Nevertheless, their uneasy truce has largely held despite periodic outbreaks of fighting involving small arms.