U.N. Hopes Armenia, Azerbaijan Ceasefire Holds
The United Nations headquarters building is pictured though a window with the UN logo in the foreground in the Manhattan borough of New York August 15, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
(Reuters) - The United Nations welcomed on Thursday a ceasefire announced between Armenia and Azerbaijan after two days of violence linked to a decades-old dispute between the former Soviet states over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The fighting - which both sides blamed on each other - left more than 170 soldiers dead and threatened to drag Turkey, Azerbaijan's key backer, and Armenia's ally Russia into a wider conflict at a time of already high geopolitical tensions.
A fragile ceasefire was agreed between the two sides late on Wednesday after almost 48 hours of clashes, a senior Armenian official said on state TV. Moscow, which has a self-defense pact with Armenia and a military base in the country but also strives for friendly relations with Azerbaijan, claimed credit for brokering the deal.
U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Miroslav Jenca on Thursday said "the international community must remain fully committed to a peaceful settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan and spare no effort to deescalate the current tensions, bring the parties back to the negotiation table and help them achieve peace and stability in the region."
Before the ceasefire was announced, Armenia's Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said Azerbaijani forces had struck and seized several Armenian settlements along their shared border, in territory beyond the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. Baku said it was responding to "provocations" by the Armenian side.
Russia said on Thursday it was seeking to reverse any shift in the military balance of the region that had occurred as a result of this week's fighting.
"We are in close contact with both countries, so as to arrive at a sustainable ceasefire and the return of Azerbaijani and Armenian military to their positions of origin," Russia's ambassador to the U.N. Vassily Nebenzia told the 15-member Security Council on Thursday.
The clashes triggered calls for de-escalation from Russia, the United States and the European Union. Armenia's deputy defense minister told Reuters the conflict risked spilling over into a full-blown war, while some analysts said Baku was trying to take advantage of Russia's war in Ukraine to advance its position in the region.
"This week’s events are also a stark reminder that tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan also have the potential to destabilize the region," the U.N.'s Jenca said.
Armenia said 105 of its soldiers died in the clashes this week, with Azerbaijan reporting 71 service personnel killed. The fighting was the deadliest in almost two years, since a six-week war in 2020 left thousands dead and saw Azerbaijan make significant territorial gains in and around Nagorno-Karabakh.