Azerbaijan’s president has voiced his criticism of the OSCE Minsk Group, complaining about the mission’s “passive stance” on the Artsakh (Nagarno-Karabakh) peace process, per Tert.
In a televised interview, Ilham Aliyev expressed his concern over a failure to react to the Armenian prime minister’s statement saying “Artsakh is Armenia”. “That statement derails the negotiations, making them pointless. No settlement talks are actually in progress at the moment. Neither is there any use of the video conference held between the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia. That’s just an imitation of the OSCE Minsk Group’s activity. Unless the negotiations are substantial, we will not have our part in them,” Turan.az quoted him as saying.
The Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Artsakh broke out in 1988 when the Armenian majority of the then autonomous region declared its intention to break away from Azerbaijan. In a referendum held on December 10, 1991 (days before the collapse of the USSR), the population voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence (99.89%). The move was followed by Azerbaijan’s large-scale military operations against Artsakh and seven neighboring regions. The armed violence left around 25,000-30,000 people dead; thousands were internally displaced. The Ceasefire Accord, which went into effect in May 1994, formally put an end to the armed attacks in the conflict zone, but there is still periodic fighting in the area. Since 1994, the OSCE Minsk Group, a mission co-chaired by France, the United States and Russia, has been spearheading the efforts towards a peaceful solution to the conflict.
The hostilities escalated to an unprecedented degree in April 2016 in what was later dubbed a Four-Day War. In the early hours of April 1, 2016, Azerbaijan’s armed forces launched heavy offensives along the Line of Contact, provoking large-scale confrontations with the Defense Army of Artsakh. The adversary also shelled civilian settlements, particularly the southern and north-eastern regions of Hadrut and Martakert.
A ceasefire was reached on 5 April between the chiefs of the armed forces of Azerbaijan and Armenia in Moscow. The Artsakh authorities also welcomed the verbal agreement.