Russia and France step up calls for Nagorno-Karabakh fighting to stop

An Azeri serviceman aims his weapon at the frontline with the self-defense army of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan, April 29, 2020. Zulfiya Safkhanova/Reuters

SULAIMANJ (ESTA) — Russia and France stepped up calls for an immediate ceasefire between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces on Thursday (October 1) as the death toll rose in the heaviest clashes around the Nagorno-Karabakh region since the 1990s.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron discussed moves that the Organizations for Security and Co-operation’s (OSCE) Minsk group, the Kremlin said, according to Reuters.

France, Russia and the United States are co-chairs of the Organization for Security and Co-operation’s (OSCE) Minsk Group, set up in 1992 to mediate a peaceful resolution over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave in the South Caucasus.

Russia has also offered to host the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan for talks on ending fighting that flared on Sunday, reviving a decades-long conflict over the mountainous enclave in the South Caucasus region.

Dozens have been reported killed and hundreds wounded since Sunday in the fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh, a region inside Azerbaijan that is administrated by ethnic Armenians.

It broke away in a 1991-94 war that killed 30,000 people, but is not recognized internationally as an independent republic.

Macron’s office said in a separate statement that the French president and Putin agreed on the need for a joint effort to reach a ceasefire in the framework of Minsk.

Macron and Putin “also shared their concern regarding the sending of Syrian mercenaries by Turkey to Nagorno-Karabakh”.

Two Syrian rebel sources have told Reuters that Turkey is sending Syrian rebel fighters to support Azerbaijan, which Turkey and Azerbaijan have denied.

Russia’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday that Syrian and Libyan fighters from illegal armed groups were being sent to the Nagorno-Karabakh regions.

Russia has a military base in Armenia and considers it to be a strategic partner. France’s population includes about 600,000 people of Armenian origin.

Armenia’s ambassador to Moscow said on Monday that Turkey had sent around 4,000 fighters from northern Syria to Azerbaijan and that they were fighting there, an assertion denied by an aide to Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, and Turkey’s government.

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