Russia, Turkey agree to push for Caucasus ceasefire

Foreign News Desk

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin held a telephone conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during which both parties stressed the importance of observing the humanitarian ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Kremlin said in a statement.
Both sides addressed the conflict in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, reaffirming the importance of observing the humanitarian truce agreed upon during a trilateral meeting between Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia on Oct. 10 in Moscow.
They spoke in favor of stepping up the political process, in particular, based on the developments of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group, according to the statement.
“The Russian president expressed serious concern over the participation of militants from the Middle East region in the hostilities. The urgent need for mutual efforts aimed at an immediate cessation of the bloodshed and a transition to a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem was stressed,” it said.
Russia expressed the hope that Turkey would contribute in a constructive manner to the de-escalation of the conflict, considering Turkey’s membership in the OSCE. Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed on a ceasefire in the Nagorno-Karabakh region on Saturday, following lengthy negotiations in Moscow. The deal was announced in a joint statement by Armenian, Azerbaijani and Russian foreign ministers.
Moreover, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday held a phone talk and discussed the steps aiming to develop bilateral ties, the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis, along with the situation in Syria and Libya, the Turkish presidency said in a written statement.
Turkey wants a lasting solution for the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, Erdogan said. Erdogan emphasized that the momentum in the political solution process of the Syrian crisis should be maintained, according to the statement.
Earlier, Azerbaijan accused Armenia of trying to attack its gas and oil pipelines and warned of a “severe” response as tensions rose sharply around a fraying ceasefire in the mountain enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Armenia denied the claim and said Azeri forces were trying to seize control of the tiny territory, which is governed by ethnic Armenians, despite Saturday’s humanitarian ceasefire. Russia tried to silence the angry rhetoric and appealed to both sides to observe the ceasefire it brokered over Nagorno-Karabakh, which is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan.
But Moscow and Turkey also exchanged recriminations over the fighting that has killed more than 600 people since Sept. 27, the majority of them Nagorno-Karabakh military personnel.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in a phone call on Wednesday that Ankara wanted a permanent solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh issue.
Putin expressed his concerns about the participation of Middle East fighters in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, a claim denied both by Ankara and Baku. Both leaders reaffirmed the importance of a Moscow-mediated ceasefire in the conflict, the Kremlin said.
Fears are growing that the two big regional powers could be sucked into a conflict that is being fought close to Azeri pipelines which carry gas and oil to international markets.
“Armenia is trying to attack and take control of our pipelines,” Azeri President Ilham Aliyev said in an interview with Turkish broadcaster Haberturk.
“If Armenia tries to take control of the pipelines there, I can say that the outcome will be severe for them.”
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan described the situation in the conflict area as quite hard and said Azerbaijan and Turkey did not want “to stop their aggression”.
Azerbaijan was trying to occupy Nagorno-Karabakh, he said, using similar language to Azeri leaders who say Armenian forces are occupying the territory.
Azerbaijan has more firepower than Armenia, and Turkish export data showed it bought $77.1 million worth of military equipment from Turkey last month before fighting began. Turkey’s military exports to its ally have risen six-fold this year.
Nagorno-Karabakh has acknowledged some setbacks in the fighting, which has raised fears of a humanitarian crisis, but says the situation is under control.
“It is not too late to resolve the conflict peacefully, through negotiations,” Nagorno-Karabakh leader Arayik Harutyunyan said. “But if the enemy doesn’t want to, we are ready to fight to the end.”