While 2015 has seen an unprecedented armed escalation and aggravation of the peace process aimed at a politically negotiated solution to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, the OSCE Minsk Group must make sure that this exacerbated climate does not linger in 2016.

The Heads of Delegation of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair Countries – Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov, Secretary of State of the United States John Kerry, State Secretary for European Affairs of France Harlem Desir- issued a joint statement re-affirming their commitment to mediating a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, yet Azerbaijan continued to attack Armenia and Artsakh, using various tools at its disposal, including indiscriminant sniper fire at the conflict zone, border incursions, surface to air missiles towards aircraft and shelling of villages across the border, leading to countless military, as well as civilian casualties.

The Minsk Group co-chairs have long been urging the parties to the conflict to withdraw snipers and agree to a mechanism for international investigations of armed incidents. These measures are backed by the governments of Armenia and Artsakh but continuously rejected by Azerbaijan.

The Armenian Council of America supports U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce’s call on the U.S., Russian, and French mediators to press Azerbaijan to accept major safeguards against intensifying ceasefire violations in the Nagorno Karabakh Republic conflict zone.

In addition, the ACA, urges Ambassador James Warlick, U.S. Co-Chair of OSCE Minsk Group, the State Department and the White House, to adhere to the call by members of Congress and “publicly condemn specific acts of aggression along the line of contact. The long-standing U.S. and OSCE practice of responding to each new attack with generic calls upon all parties to refrain from violence has failed to de-escalate the situation. Instead, this policy of artificial even-handedness has dangerously increased tensions. There will be no peace absent responsibility.”

Although, even-handedness and encouragement of dialogue is key to negotiating a peaceful political process, it is only so when all sides to a conflict are eager to engage in only the peaceful political process. As 2015 has shown, the Azeri dictatorship, does not share the international community’s goal of peace process, but rather bides its time, and continues to gauge military options.

For the OSCE Minsk Group to remain a credible negotiator, and continue a viable peaceful political process to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, it must maintain its integrity as a neutral party. If it does not respond to Azeri aggression by condemning the aggressor, it will lose the credibility of the Governments of Armenia and Artsakh. If it does not respond to Azeri aggression by condemning the aggressor it will also be seen as a mere inconsequential organizational obstacle that the Azeri dictatorship can trifle with and continue to concentrate on a military solution.

In order to prevent the future escalation of the conflict, the OSCE Minsk Group must forgo the current status quo and forcefully and bluntly condemn Azeri aggression. When and only when the Azeri aggression is halted, the OSCE Minsk Group must encourage trust building measures; a key component of which is the inclusion of the democratically elected representatives of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic within the peace talks.

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