Amid Fighting between Armenia, Azerbaijan, Assistant Secretary-General Urges Both Parties Commit to Lasting Peace Treaty, in Security Council Briefing
The recent escalation of tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan is a stark reminder that it has the potential to further destabilize the region, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council today as the two countries agreed on a ceasefire after recent reports of fighting.
Miroslav Jenča, Assistant Secretary-General for Europe, Central Asia and Americas for the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, noted that, on 12 September, authorities on both sides reported heavy fighting on their border, with heavy artillery, drones and large-calibre weapons used. He welcomed the latest ceasefire agreement reached on 14 September and expressed hope that it will hold.
Nevertheless, he went on to express concern regarding the escalation, underscoring the urgent need for the parties involved to advance the process of delimitation and demarcation. “This week’s events are also a stark reminder that tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan also have the potential to destabilize the region,” he warned, citing the importance of mediation efforts by the Russian Federation and European Union.
He urged the international community to remain committed to a peaceful settlement and bring the parties back to the negotiating table. In the immediate term, he stressed, the countries must abide by their obligation to fully implement the trilateral statement on the 9 November 2020 ceasefire, taking steps towards the signing of a lasting peace treaty.
In the ensuing debate, while speakers welcomed the latest ceasefire agreement and urged Armenia and Azerbaijan to commit to deescalate the tensions, the two parties criticized the other’s intention to undermine the ongoing peace processes.
The representative of Armenia, noting that today’s meeting “is taking place at a grave time for my country”, stated that Azerbaijan initiated a major military offensive targeting the eastern and south-eastern regions of his country on 13 September. Recalling that his delegation has repeatedly told the Council that Azerbaijan has been illegally acquiring territory by force, he stressed that the latest attacks demonstrate that policies of aggression are likely to continue in the absence of proper accountability measures.
Also pointing out that this aggression occurred in the context of peace negotiations, he said that this is Azerbaijan’s answer to the international community’s mediation efforts. He appealed to the Council to shoulder its responsibility to maintain international peace and security, urging its members to come up with tangible measures following today’s meeting.
Meanwhile, Azerbaijan’s representative stressed that his country was recklessly provoked by Armenia to torpedo the fragile post-conflict normalization process. The countermeasures taken in provocations were limited and targeted at legitimate military objects, he affirmed.
He then emphasized that the escalation at the border was not an isolated incident. Armenia continues massive mine planting on the territory of Azerbaijan and has consistently failed to share accurate and comprehensive information about the hundreds of thousands of landmines it indiscriminately laid. The international community must resolutely condemn Armenia’s policy and actions, he stressed.
The representative of the Russian Federation, expressing concern over escalation on the border, called for the ceasefire to be abided by. It is crucial to increase security in border areas without interference by outside forces, with swift stabilization and return to dialogue, he continued.
Noting his country’s efforts in brokering trilateral statements, he also pointed to its work on a peace treaty, which, despite recent events, continues. Lasting peace in the South Caucasus is crucial to the entire region, he said, stressing that geopolitical competition can only endanger the process.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Gabon, India, Norway, Ireland, Kenya, China, Mexico, Ghana, Brazil, United Arab Emirates, Albania, United Kingdom, United States and France.
The meeting began at 10:06 a.m. and ended at 11:33 a.m.
MIROSLAV JENČA, Assistant Secretary-General for Europe, Central Asia and Americas, Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations, briefing on developments in the South Caucasus, noted that on 12 September, authorities in Armenia and Azerbaijan reported heavy fighting on their international border, with heavy artillery, drones and large-calibre weapons used. A ceasefire was agreed at on the evening of 14 September. He noted the Armenian Ministry of Defense stated that Azerbaijan was targeting Armenian military positions as well as civilian infrastructure, with 105 Armenian servicemen killed and 6 civilians wounded in a deliberate attack. However, Azerbaijan countered that they were “retaliatory measures” in response to Armenian provocations resulting in 71 servicemen killed and two civilians wounded.
He noted both countries have written to the Secretary-General and the Council alleging violations of the ceasefire brokered by the Russian Federation in 2020, and of their territorial integrity. The United Nations is not in a position to verify the specifics of the reports, but he expressed concern regarding this dangerous escalation, urging de-escalation and noting that country teams remain in both States to maintain open channels with the authorities and are ready to respond to humanitarian needs. The escalation underscores the urgent need for the parties to advance the process of delimitation and demarcation.
This week’s events are also a stark reminder that tensions between the countries have the potential to destabilize the region, he said, citing the importance of mediation efforts by the Russian Federation and European Union. The Collective Security Treaty Organization, at the request of Armenia, will send a mission there to assess the border situation and report back to Member States. During his recent visit to the region, he noted he assessed the challenges being faced in resolving the long-lasting conflict — returning with the conviction that while differences and mistrust persist between the sides, they are surmountable. He urged the international community to remain committed to a peaceful settlement and bring the parties back to the negotiating table. In the immediate term, the countries must abide by their obligation to fully implement the trilateral statement on the ceasefire of 9 November 2020, taking steps towards the signing of a lasting peace treaty.
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon) said that the resumed confrontation between Armenia and Azerbaijan has “revived unhappy memories” of the 2020 conflict that led to thousands of lives lost. Stressing that no military solution is viable — and that any escalation of violence will only build resentment and tension — he said that this complex situation calls for all partners having influence in the region to mobilize to pacify tensions. All initiatives to bring the parties back to the negotiating table must be supported, and the ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh and along the border of Armenia and Azerbaijan must be maintained. Calling on the parties to demonstrate restraint, he also urged the Council to speak with one voice to support the diplomatic channels that have been activated for a return to peace between the two countries.
RUCHIRA KAMBOJ (India) said that the informal deliberations held by the Security Council on 14 September were a “timely beginning” for the 15-member organ to seriously consider why the situation in the Caucasus, particularly at the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, continues to be tense. Expressing deep concern over the recent reports of attacks along the Armenia-Azerbaijan boarder, including targeting of civilian settlements and infrastructure, she called upon the “aggressor side” to immediately cease hostilities and exercise restraint. She added that the Council cannot afford to stand by silently and let the situation deteriorate further. She went on to say that the 9 November 2020 ceasefire agreement brokered by the Russian Federation, as well as the peace processes being mediated by the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Union, provides useful mechanisms to resolve all outstanding issues. Stressing that “there can be no military or violent solution to any conflict”, she encouraged both sides to pursue diplomatic pathways to arrive at a lasting and peaceful solution.
MONA JUUL (Norway) expressed deep concern over the recent rise in tensions along the border between the countries, including reported artillery strikes hitting civilians and civilian infrastructure inside Armenia. Describing accounts of civilian deaths and injuries on both sides of the conflict as “most disturbing”, she welcomed the latest agreement on a cessation of hostilities. In this regard she called on both countries to take immediate steps to de-escalate tensions and exercise maximum restraint. While reiterating her support for the dialogue between Armenia and Azerbaijan to implement the November 2020 ceasefire agreement, she also welcomed the efforts of the European Union and the United States to help advance negotiations. Emphasizing that “any outstanding issues must be resolved peacefully through dialogue, and within existing formats”, she urged Armenia and Azerbaijan to fully implement previously reached agreements and return to the negotiating table in good faith and without preconditions.
CAÍT MORAN (Ireland) urged Armenia and Azerbaijan to commit to a ceasefire, without delay and in respect of prior international agreements. All forces must urgently return to the positions they held before the recent escalation in hostilities. In both countries, as elsewhere, violence can never be the answer. Welcoming the readiness of the United Nations to step up its mediation efforts upon request, she also expressed support for the common goal of a South Caucasus that enjoys peace, security and prosperity. “That is what its people deserve,” she said, adding that Ireland, together with its partners in the European Union, continues to support renewed efforts towards a negotiated, comprehensive and sustainable settlement of the broader conflict, particularly on the long-term status of Nagorno-Karabakh.
JAYNE JEPKORIR TOROITICH (Kenya) expressed concern over recent reports of renewed fighting along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, noting the sides are trading accusations of shelling, the amassing of heavy weaponry and strikes against settlements and civilian infrastructure. Recalling that this conflict has previously led to death, injury, displacement and the destruction of critical civilian infrastructure, she underscored that “every effort must be expended to avoid another cycle of violence”. She therefore called on the parties to exercise maximum restraint and strictly observe the ceasefire agreement, also urging all relevant regional and international actors to actively work with the sides to achieve an end to the fighting and a return to negotiations. Adding that dialogue should be pursued as the primary option for resolving conflicts, she said that the two countries should engage in good faith, both for their benefit and for regional peace and stability.
GENG SHUANG (China) expressed concern over recent armed conflicts and casualties in the border region of Armenia and Azerbaijan, as maintaining regional peace and stability is in the interests of both countries. He urged them to exercise restraint and resolve problems and differences through political dialogue. Both sides have come to a ceasefire agreement, and he expressed hope they would abide by it. Armenia and Azerbaijan set up a border demarcation committee last May, he noted, stressing that normalization of relations between the countries is inseparable from settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. Acknowledging the historical development of that issue, he welcomed the tripartite joint statement reached by the Russian Federation, Armenia and Azerbaijan in November 2020, and his delegation will continue to support the Minsk Group and the good offices of the Russian Federation. Armenia and Azerbaijan are inseparable neighbours, and maintaining stable bilateral relations and resolving differences through dialogue and consultation is in the fundamental interests of both countries and peoples and for regional stability.
JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMIREZ (Mexico) expressed concern over the confrontation taking place on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which has resulted in fatalities on both sides and affected the civilian population. He called on both parties to respect the ceasefire, recalling that the 2020 conflict between the two countries “came with a high cost” for the civilian population and basic infrastructure. The international community must try to avoid a similar episode, and the parties must respect and fully enforce previously signed agreements and resolve their differences through dialogue. Calling on international actors with influence over the parties to urge them to return to the negotiating table, he also called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to demonstrate their political will to end hostilities and return to the path of diplomacy to resolve persisting differences.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana) voiced regret that the recent hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan have resulted in military and civilian casualties on both sides. Stressing that the use of violence cannot be the “final arbiter” for the settlement of this dispute, he welcomed the agreement reached by the parties on 14 September for a cessation of hostilities. He urged both sides to sustain the truce and to also remain committed to existing ceasefire arrangements, including the trilateral statement of 9 November 2020 made by the two countries and the Russian Federation. Also stressing that international mediation efforts are critical to help remove the mutual distrust and discontent between the parties, he encouraged the good offices role of the Secretary-General as well as urged the reactivated engagement of the co-Chairs of the Minsk Group of OSCE. In addition, he encouraged the resumption of talks between the parties under the auspices of the Council of the European Union. “At the heart of finding a solution to the dispute should be the willingness of both parties to make the hard sacrifices necessary for the cause of peace,” he emphasized.
JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil) said border clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces are contrary to the spirit and letter of the three tripartite declarations reached in 2020 and 2021 and risk undermining the needed trust between the two States and jeopardizing the progress of the past two years. Calling on the parties to respect international law and the Charter of the United Nations and solve their disputes through dialogue and diplomacy, he urged them to avoid escalation. He expressed support for a lasting diplomatic solution to territorial issues between the two countries within the framework of the commission established to demarcate the bilateral border. Citing the great value of the moderating influence of regional actors in preventing violence, he encouraged all initiatives in that regard, expressing regret over the loss of lives.
AMEIRAH OBAID MOHAMED OBAID ALHEFEITI (United Arab Emirates), welcoming the ceasefire reached on 14 September and the negotiations that led thereto, expressed hope that positive developments continue so that both parties reach agreement for lasting peace that will prevent harm to civilians. “Any escalation in today’s world of repeated crises and humanitarian suffering will weaken the current order,” she stressed, calling on both parties to return to the negotiating table and settle their differences peacefully. Tangible progress must be made in the peace process, and both parties should engage with mediation efforts constructively and sincerely to achieve a lasting peaceful solution and prevent the region from suffering repercussions that may lead to further escalation. The ceasefire must be preserved, she added.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) expressed concern over fighting in the border region, the worst escalation between the two countries since 2020. While welcoming recent events including the recent high-level meeting in Brussels on 31 August, he stressed that the armed clashes undermine and run counter to such efforts, voicing hope they will not undo progress achieved. In such a volatile situation, it is not easy to find clarity. While parties blame each other, he emphasized the importance of avoiding any actions feeding mistrust, including military buildup or other provocations along the border. Stressing that the “blame game” and retaliatory actions could lead to an open conflict, he cited the stark reminder of the fragility on the ground in absence of a peace treaty. The countries must ensure that conflict lines do not extend, as European security is already endangered by the ongoing war in Ukraine. The South Caucasus is a crucial artery for energy commodities to world markets, which are deeply affected by the war in Ukraine. Voicing support for international efforts within existing frameworks to stop hostilities, he welcomed the ceasefire — which is being respected so far — and reiterated that there is no alternative to diplomacy.
FERGUS JOHN ECKERSLEY (United Kingdom), while welcoming the ceasefire brokered on 14 September, expressed deep concern over reports of civilian casualties caused by the military action launched earlier in the week. It is only through diplomacy and dialogue that lasting peace, in line with the Charter of the United Nations, can be achieved. He added that this was demonstrated by “encouraging” developments in recent weeks, including the return of prisoners of war by Azerbaijan and the trilateral meetings held in Brussels with the European Union. He urged the leaders of both Armenia and Azerbaijan to re-engage in such dialogues in good faith and to return to substantive negotiations to settle all outstanding matters between them.
RICHARD M. MILLS, JR. (United States) said that his country is “troubled” over the outbreak of violence along the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, including the shelling of civilian infrastructure in Armenia. The United States is currently engaged with officials from both countries, and he stressed that all sides must observe their obligations under international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians. There can be no military solution to this conflict, and Baku and Yerevan should re-establish lines of communication over both diplomatic and military channels. The United States is committed to promoting a peaceful, democratic and prosperous future for the South Caucasus region, he said, noting that his country stands ready to facilitate dialogue between Armenia and Azerbaijan bilaterally, through OSCE and in coordination with partners to achieve a long-term political settlement to the conflict.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) expressed concern over escalation on the border, calling for the ceasefire to be abided by, as well as the tripartite agreement. He noted President Vladimir Putin will meet with Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev on the sidelines of the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Samarkand on 15 and 16 September. The Russian Federation is working to ensure the ceasefire and withdrawal of both States’ forces, with a Collective Security Treaty Organization mission ready to study the situation in certain areas on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan and develop appropriate recommendations and proposals. Stressing that all outstanding issues must be resolved through political and diplomatic means exclusively, he said the main work will be carried out by Baku and Yerevan, but the Russian Federation is ready to share its experience in delimitation and demarcation of borders in the post-Soviet space and provide cartographic and other materials and other necessary consultative and technical assistance. It is crucial to increase security in border areas without interference by outside forces, with swift stabilization and return to dialogue. Noting Russian Federation efforts including brokering several trilateral statements, he cited a trilateral working group fostering projects including the construction of a railway, as well as a highway between the western regions of Azerbaijan and the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic through the territory of the Syunik region of Armenia. One of the main efforts by Russian Federation is to prepare a peace treaty, and despite recent events, that work continues. Lasting peace in the South Caucasus is crucial to the entire region, and geopolitical competition and zero-sum games can only endanger the process, he stressed.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France), Council President for September, speaking in his national capacity, expressed concern by the military actions undertaken on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, noting shots targeted several localities on Armenian territory and reports of strikes hitting civilian infrastructure. He noted that France President Emmanuel Macron met with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijan President Ilham Heydar oglu Aliyev. The absolute priority must be strict respect for the ceasefire of 9 November 2020, as all Member States are bound by the Charter of the United Nations to settle disputes peacefully. Calling on Azerbaijan to maintain its forces in its initial positions, he stressed that the territorial integrity of Armenia must be respected. In particular, he called on the parties to advance discussions on the delimitation and demarcation of the international border and on the means of preventing new incidents and violence. He hailed the action of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), also calling for the release of prisoners. Welcoming the efforts of the Presidency of the European Council to bring together President Aliyev and Prime Minister Pashinyan to foster dialogue and achieve progress on the various aspects of normalizing relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, he urged the Council to remain seized of the issue.
MHER MARGARYAN (Armenia) noted that today’s meeting is taking place at a grave time for his country, as acts of criminal aggression have been perpetrated against it. “The perpetrator does, indeed, have a name,” he said, stating that Azerbaijan — which is much larger in terms of territory, population and resources than Armenia and has a demonstrated record of hostile conduct, rhetoric and unchecked, disproportionate violence — initiated a major military offensive targeting the eastern and south-eastern regions of Armenia in the early hours of 13 September. This offensive claimed the lives of 105 people, left dozens wounded, dozens missing and damaged civilian settlements and infrastructure. The scale of destruction and the intensity of the shelling is so high that, at the moment, only initial figures are available. Recalling that his delegation has repeatedly told the Council that Azerbaijan has been illegally acquiring territory by force, he stressed that the latest attacks demonstrate that policies of aggression are likely to continue — and even increase in scope and scale — in the absence of proper accountability measures. Azerbaijan, emboldened by the results of using force in the past, now seeks to normalize violence and aggression to capture territory by force, he said, noting that, over the past two days, Azerbaijan has intruded and occupied more than 10 square kilometres of sovereign Armenian territory.
Pointing out that this aggression occurred in the context of peace negotiations — in which Armenia has engaged in good faith — he said that this is Azerbaijan’s answer to the international community’s mediation efforts. While that country’s representative will offer justifications about Azerbaijan’s predatory conduct, there are none under international law. Despite manufactured pretexts, no actual armed attack has been initiated by Armenia, he stressed. Noting that, for many years, blame games and speculation have been Azerbaijan’s best friends — and that, for this reason, Baku opposes the creation of internationally monitored verification mechanisms to identify ceasefire violations — he emphasized that such measures would help sustain the ceasefire so that peace and diplomacy get a chance. The current aggression represents an intentional decision to walk away from negotiations concerning Nagorno-Karabakh and opt for a military solution to the conflict, he said.
Against that backdrop, he appealed to the Council to shoulder its responsibility to maintain international peace and security, urging those present to come up with tangible measures following today’s meeting. These should include: a strong condemnation of Azerbaijan’s unprovoked aggression; a demand for the immediate, unconditional withdrawal of Azerbaijan’s forces; a demand for that country to refrain from any future acts of aggression against Armenia and to fully comply with its international obligations and commitments; a demand for Baku to engage peacefully in the negotiation process on issues resulting from and related to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, including that of status; and a call to release and repatriate all Armenian prisoners of war.
YASHAR T. ALIYEV (Azerbaijan) stressed that the serious military escalation along the undelimited State border between Armenia and his country was recklessly provoked by Armenia to torpedo the fragile post-conflict normalization process. Unfortunately, that delegate’s statement demonstrates the intention to abuse the Council to cover up its continuous efforts to evade the implementation of its commitments. Categorically rejecting the allegations, he stated that it is ironic that Armenia — which held the sovereign territories of Azerbaijan under occupation for almost 30 years, carrying out ethnic cleansing on a massive scale — enthusiastically talks now of the norms and principles that it has consistently violated. He added that Armenia continues to use obsolete or fake names for localities in Azerbaijan.
On the night of 12 to 13 September 2022, the armed forces of Armenia committed a large-scale military provocation on the Azerbaijan-Armenia border, subjecting the armed forces of Azerbaijan to intensive fire with different types of weapons, including mortars and artillery, he said, adding that 42 servicemen and eight border guards were killed. The countermeasures taken in provocations were limited and targeted at legitimate military objects, he affirmed. Azerbaijan declared its willingness to return to Armenia the remains of its deceased military personnel on a unilateral basis and informed ICRC accordingly. However, he stressed the escalation at the border was not an isolated incident. Following a meeting in Brussels, the Prime Minister and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia made provocative statements in connection with the anniversary of the so-called “independence” of the unlawful regime that Armenia established and maintained on the territories of Azerbaijan in the years of their occupation.
Armenia continues massive mine planting on the territory of Azerbaijan along with a consistent failure to share accurate and comprehensive information about the hundreds of thousands of landmines it indiscriminately laid. He noted that Armenia has not completely withdrawn the remnants of its armed forces from Azerbaijan where the peacekeepers of the Russian Federation are temporarily deployed. His Government prioritized the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the liberated territories and their reintegration into the country’s economy, and consequently cannot be interested in any military activity there. It is no coincidence that Armenia continues the militarization of the borderline areas in preparation for military provocations. Against this backdrop, the international community must resolutely condemn Armenia’s policy and actions, he stressed. Azerbaijan is committed to regional peace, with the establishment of good neighbourly relations a key for building a secure, stable and prosperous South Caucasus. Border delimitation and demarcation and opening of transport communications are the two tracks of inter-State normalization complementing negotiations on a bilateral peace treaty. He reiterated the call on the international community to persuade Armenia to reciprocate the offer of Azerbaijan, cease its political and military provocations, abandon its aggressive rhetoric and actions, and engage in good faith in direct negotiations to find a peaceful diplomatic solution to all inter-State issues.