- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 1, 2020

Russia, France and the U.S. on Thursday issued calls for an immediate cease-fire between Armenia and Azerbaijan as clashes between the two rivals sparked recently over the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh killing dozens of people and threatening to drag nearby Turkey and Russia into a direct military confrontation.

Nagorno-Karabakh tensions have simmered since the collapse of the Soviet Union, when Armenian and Azerbaijani forces fought a war over the territory, a heavily ethnic Armenian enclave surrounded by Azeri territory.

Russia, which has offered to mediate peace talks, helped broker a cease-fire in 1994 when Nagorno-Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan, but on-again-off-again fighting has flared over the years, such as in 2016 when hundreds were killed.

“We call for an immediate cessation of hostilities between the relevant military forces,” the presidents of France, Russia and the U.S. said in a joint statement as co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, Reuters reported. “We also call on the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan to commit without delay to resuming substantive negotiations, in good faith and without preconditions, under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs.”

OSCE is short for Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

While Russia has long backed Christian Armenia and Turkey has openly supported the largely Muslim Azerbaijan, regional analysts say the situation has grown more complex and dangerous recently amid escalating Turkey-Russia tension on other fronts — from Syria to Libya and the wider Eastern Mediterranean.

But the calls for a cease-fire were not welcomed by all. Turkey pushed back on the three global powers’ call as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he opposed their involvement in the situation.

“Given that the USA, Russia and France have neglected this problem for nearly 30 years, it is unacceptable that they are involved in a search for a cease-fire,” he said in a speech to Turkish parliament.

Mr. Erdogan, whose pushback will likely see criticism from NATO, said that a cease-fire can only happen if “Armenian occupiers” left Nagorno-Karabakh.

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