Clinton concerned about rising Armenia-Azerbaijan tensions

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says violence across the cease-fire zone separating Armenia and Azerbaijan could lead to greater regional conflict. Secretary Clinton discussed the violence with President Serzh Sarkisyan in the Armenian capital, Yerevan.

Secretary Clinton says she is “very concerned about the danger of escalation of tensions and the senseless deaths of young soldiers and innocent civilians” across the zone that has divided Armenia and Azerbaijan since the end of the Nargono-Karabakh war in 1994.

“The use of force will not resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. And therefore, force must not be used. And we are calling on everyone to renounce force as well as refraining from violence,” she said.

Clinton says she assured President Sarkisyan that she will make these points in Baku, the Azerbaijani capital, during talks there Wednesday.

Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian says there were casualties overnight when Azerbaijani forces crossed the cease-fire zone in what he calls a “bold provocation,” though he gave no count of the dead or wounded.

Nalbandian said there is near-daily violence across the line of contact with Nagorno-Karabakh. “They are trying to transform the tension and make the situation acute also on the Armenian-Azeri border, which jeopardizes the process of negotiations and not only. It also jeopardizes the regional stability,” he said.

Clinton says the incident underscores the necessity to make progress on the peace process, not only by leaders but by the peoples of the region, to try to find a way to live together in peace and dignity. “There is a danger that it could escalate into a much broader conflict that would be very tragic for everyone concerned,” she said.

For the last 18 years, the mountainous, majority ethnic Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh has been under the control of Armenia’s army and militia, though most of the international community still recognizes the region as part of Azerbaijan.

Clinton says resolution of the dispute must be based on the Helsinki principles of the non-use or threat of force, territorial integrity and the equal rights and self-determinations of peoples. “And you can’t take one out. They have to be an integrated whole in order to arrive at a sustainable solution,” she said.

A senior State Department official travelling with Clinton says the United States and Minsk Group partners Russia and France are working on a set of basic principles including the return of Azerbaijani territory surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh, the return of civilians displaced by the conflict, and the creation of both an international peacekeeping force and a corridor linking Armenia with Nagorno-Karabakh.