Latest Clash between Armenia, Azerbaijan Undermines Prospects of Peace, Speakers Warn Security Council, Calling for Genuine Dialogue to Settle Outstanding Issues
Baku, Yerevan Representatives Trade Accusations of Violations
Use of force undermines the prospect for peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan, speakers in the Security Council warned today, as they assessed the situation resulting from the latest military operation by Baku in Nagorno-Karabakh and the immediate truce that followed.
Miroslav Jenča, Assistant Secretary-General for Europe, Central Asia and Americas, Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations, reported that on 19 September, Azerbaijan announced that it had launched “local counter-terrorism activities in the Karabakh economic region” in response to the tragic deaths of two civilians and four police officers in incidents involving landmines, allegedly placed by Armenian armed forces.
“The developments of the past few days should be seen in the context of the broader pattern of regular ceasefire violations,” he said, declaring: “A genuine dialogue between the Government of Azerbaijan and representatives of the region… is the only sustainable way forward.” He underlined the Secretariat’s readiness to support ongoing peace efforts, conduct humanitarian needs assessments and provide assistance.
In the ensuing discussion, representatives of Armenia and Azerbaijan traded accusations, while other speakers called for the need to stop violence, defuse tensions and settle outstanding issues through negotiations.
Ararat Mirzoyan, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Armenia pointed to yet another large-scale offensive by Azerbaijan that was unleashed against the people of Nagorno-Karabakh in blatant violation of international law and the trilateral statement of 9 November 2020. He urged the Council to explore the immediate deployment of a UN inter-agency mission to Nagorno-Karabakh to monitor and assess the human rights, humanitarian and security situations, as well as the possible deployment of an UN-mandated peacekeeping force there.
However, refuting his counterpart, Jeyhun Bayramov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, holding up photos of heavy Armenian military equipment, stressed that such equipment was not in Azerbaijan’s territory for peaceful purposes. The counter-terror measures taken were limited and proportionate to the threat posed to his country and its citizens. They were exclusively aimed at neutralizing legitimate military targets within Azerbaijan’s sovereign territory and, thus, align with its right to self-defence enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations.
The representative of the United States was among several speakers who expressed disappointment that the latest escalation came only a day after the aid delivery through the Lachin Corridor and the Aghdam road began, after a 10-month blockade. Azerbaijan should comply with international law, including international humanitarian law, as well as its obligation to protect the human rights of those people in its territory, she said, declaring: “The only solution to the crisis is to end violence.”
Echoing that view, Annalena Baerbock, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, said: “Just at the moment when a glimpse of hope was emerging, when humanitarian supplies were allowed into Nagorno-Karabakh, Baku broke its repeated assurances to refrain from the use of force, causing tremendous suffering to a population already in dire straits.”
As well, Ghana’s representative observed that the recent anti-terrorist operation carried out by Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh is a reminder of the fragile peace in the region. If the future reintegration of Nagorno-Karabakh with the rest of Azerbaijan is to be successful, the approach must be reconciliatory and non-confrontational, she said.
Countering those views, Burak Akçapar, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Türkiye, said that Armenia has been reluctant to fully implement the trilateral declaration, pointing to the illegal military formation in Karabakh and its armed attacks, and to the deployment of weaponry that remains in the region. After three years of suffering, Azerbaijan was left with no choice but to take measures it deemed necessary for its own security and launched its counter-terrorism operation against the illegal military formation in Karabakh, he reported.
Highlighting efforts to reduce tensions, the representative of the Russian Federation reported that, with the Kremlin’s active mediation, an agreement was reached on a complete cessation of hostilities. Further, negotiations between representatives of the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan’s authorities are taking place today in the city of Yevlakh with the participation and coordination of Russian peacekeepers. Moscow is ready to resume work on all tracks of the Armenian-Azerbaijani normalization process, including a peace treaty, he declared.
To that point, China’s delegate reminded the Council participants that Azerbaijan and Armenia are neighbours that cannot move away from each other. Peace is in the interest of not only both countries, but the region and beyond, he said, urging Baku and Yerevan to resolve issues between them through diplomacy.
LETTER FROM PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF ARMENIA TO PRESIDENT OF SECURITY COUNCIL
MIROSLAV JENČA, Assistant Secretary-General for Europe, Central Asia and Americas, Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations, reported that on 19 September, Azerbaijan announced that it had launched “local counter-terrorism activities in the Karabakh economic region” in response to the tragic deaths of two civilians and four police officers in incidents involving landmines, allegedly placed by Armenian armed forces. In official statements, Azerbaijan had informed the Russian Federation’s peacekeeping force and the joint Russian-Turkish monitoring centre of its activities. Azerbaijani forces reportedly broke through the line of contact. There were casualties reported, including civilians. The Russian peacekeeping force documented numerous ceasefire violations. However, the United Nations, which is neither present along the line of contact, nor in other areas under the mandate of the Russian peacekeepers, is not able to verify or confirm these various claims and allegations.
Citing concerns expressed by the UN Secretary-General and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, he urged all concerned to strictly observe the 2020 ceasefire in accordance with the 9 November joint statement, and to continue implementing their obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law. The escalations occurred following the much-needed delivery on 18 September of shipments of wheat flour and essential medical items simultaneously through both the Lachin Corridor and the Aghdam road. Over the past months, the issues of freedom of movement of civilians and humanitarian access have been major sources of tension between Baku and Yerevan, he said, calling on all parties to urgently facilitate unimpeded access of humanitarian relief to civilians in need. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is concerned about the humanitarian impact of the latest events on the already vulnerable population in the region.
The developments of the past few days should be seen in the context of the broader pattern of regular ceasefire violations, he noted. In a positive step, representatives of the local population and the Government of Azerbaijan met earlier today for an initial exchange following yesterday’s announcement of a cessation of hostilities. Calling for a credible and durable cessation of all hostilities, he stressed that the protection and essential needs of the civilian population, including their human rights, must be the overriding priority. “A genuine dialogue between the Government of Azerbaijan and representatives of the region, together with full engagement in the normalization process by Armenia and Azerbaijan, is the only sustainable way forward,” he said, expressing the Secretariat’s readiness to support ongoing peace efforts, conduct humanitarian needs assessments, if given access, and provide assistance.
CATHERINE COLONNA, Minister for European and Foreign Affairs of France, called on Azerbaijan to show restraint and respect international law, stressing that the ceasefire must be respected. Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity has not been questioned or threatened here, she pointed out, underscoring that if it truly wants to arrive at a peaceful solution, then it must provide tangible guarantees. Those include committing to not use force or threaten to use force, accepting that the dialogue relates to the rights of the Ararat population, ensuring amnesty for the forces that accepted the ceasefire, re-establishing, unconditionally and without delay, traffic on the Lachin Corridor in accordance with the February International Court of Justice order, and accepting international humanitarian presence in the Nagorno-Karabakh, which is essential as winter approaches. Without these guarantees, there can be no solution, she emphasized, calling on the Council to continue to actively resolve the crisis and provide support to defining the parameters for a negotiated solution between Baku and Nagorno-Karabakh.
IAN BORG, Minister for Foreign and European Affairs and Trade of Malta, said that the latest military escalation by Azerbaijan against Karabakh Armenians happened only a few weeks after the Council called for efforts to de-escalate the situation and for all sides to engage in constructive dialogue. “Such acts constitute an obstacle to peace,” he said, condemning any act that endangers civilian lives and calling for the protection of women, children, the elderly, people with disability and other vulnerable groups. Following the ceasefire agreement, Malta called for the immediate and complete cessation of hostilities, and for the agreement to be respected. Expressing support to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of both Armenia and Azerbaijan, he strongly encouraged all sides to commit to inclusive dialogue and negotiations towards lasting peace.
AHMED BIN ALI AL SAYEGH, Minister of State of the United Arab Emirates, welcoming the ceasefire reached with the Russian Federation’s support, stressed that all parties must commit to protecting civilians and ensuring their security and safety. He also voiced appreciation for the role played by Russian peacekeeping teams in providing safe haven for civilians over the past days and expressed regret about the civilians and peacekeepers who lost their lives. The ability of the ICRC to deliver relief assistance to those in need, with the consent of the parties concerned, underlines the importance of dialogue in achieving positive results. Urging that the ceasefire be maintained, he stressed that the concerned parties must exercise restraint and avoid any escalatory acts. He also voiced hope that the talks held today in Yevlakh can build further understanding and underlined the need for further dialogue at all levels to arrive at a peaceful and prosperous future for the peoples of Azerbaijan and Armenia.
TARIQ AHMAD OF WIMBLEDON, Minister of State for South Asia and the Commonwealth of the United Kingdom, recalled the encouraging news of a small-scale movement of humanitarian goods via the Lachin and Aghdam roads into Nagorno-Karabakh. “This opportunity for progress, however, was cut short by Azerbaijan’s announcement of the start of a military operation,” he said, urging that country to end its use of force, refrain from further escalatory action and return to dialogue. While fully recognizing Azerbaijan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, military might cannot be used to resolve tensions between communities, he stressed, adding that direct dialogue is the only way to find genuine, sustainable solutions. Thus, it is vital that talks resume with representatives of the Karabakhi Armenians. The further use of violence will only undermine tentative progress towards a sustainable peace agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia, “which is unquestionably in the interests of the entire South Caucasus”. Welcoming yesterday’s announcement of a ceasefire, he also strongly urged all parties to respect it, end the violence and engage in urgent, open dialogue.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) voiced her alarm at the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh resulting from Azerbaijan’s continued military action and urged Baku to stop it. Yesterday’s announcement of a cessation of hostilities is a positive development but the situation remains fluid. Azerbaijan should comply with international law, including international humanitarian law, as well as its obligation to protect the human rights of those people in its territory. Humanitarian organizations should be able to provide necessary assistance without any roadblocks. The delivery of aid through the Lachin Corridor and the Aghdam road has just begun, she said, describing it as “a critical step forward”. Yet Baku’s military action commenced only a day after the aid delivery began. Local residents are looking to the international community, she said, noting that her country has provided $24 million in relief and development aid to them since 2020 in response to the crisis in the region. However, the only solution to the crisis is to end violence. Washington, D.C., will continue to engage at the highest level, she said.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland) said the military operations launched by Azerbaijan this week place an additional burden on the already suffering civilian population of the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Highlighting the ceasefire announced yesterday, she called for a lasting halt to hostilities on the ground. International law obligations must be emphasized even more clearly during this fragile and uncertain time and international humanitarian law and human rights, particularly minority rights, must be respected unconditionally. Voicing concern about reports of civilian casualties, she stressed that the protection of the civilian population, as well as the wounded and medical facilities remain paramount. Access to the Lachin Corridor must be sustained, she stressed, calling on parties to respect their obligations under the November 2020 trilateral declaration and the rulings of the International Court of Justice, among others.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation), acknowledging the five Russian servicemen killed in the line of duty, spotlighted Azerbaijan’s readiness to conduct a thorough investigation of this tragedy to bring those responsible to justice. Further, since the resumption of hostilities, the contingent has sought to stop the bloodshed. About 5,000 civilians were evacuated from the areas, including more than 1,000 children. Many took refuge in the camp of the peacekeepers, where they were provided with medical assistance and hot meals, he said, rejecting accusations against Moscow of inaction. In fact, with the active mediation of the Kremlin, an agreement was reached on a complete cessation of hostilities. Negotiations between representatives of the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan’s authorities are taking place today in the city of Yevlakh with the participation and coordination of Russian peacekeepers.
The Kremlin continues to play a leading role in promoting the normalization of relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia and “is more interested than anyone else” in resolving the situation as soon as possible, he continued. The current framework for the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement was established at the summits under the auspices of the European Union, but its declaration unfortunately omitted the topic of the need to properly ensure the rights and security of the Armenian population of Karabakh. A set of high-level trilateral declarations made between 2020 and 2022 laid the legal basis for the Armenian-Azerbaijani normalization process and remains the only real sustainable solution to the conflict in the South Caucasus. Nor is there any alternative to the Russian peacekeeping contingent. Moscow is ready to resume work on all tracks of the Armenian-Azerbaijani normalization process, including a peace treaty, he declared.
SÉRGIO FRANÇA DANESE (Brazil) condemned resorting to unilateral actions, stressing that the attacks on populated areas risk the fragile stability achieved after the 2020 ceasefire. He welcomed the ceasefire agreed to yesterday and urged the parties to safeguard the civilian population’s rights and their security and to avoid further escalation. Voicing support for Azerbaijan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, he stressed that the logic of retaliation that has prevailed in the past, as well as attempts to alter the political status by force, must be avoided. He called once again for the reopening of the Lachin Corridor, emphasizing that the civilian population must have unimpeded access to food and medicine and be no longer subject to interruptions in the supply of energy and basic services. All parties must explore mechanisms to prevent isolation, he added. Recalling the trilateral declaration of 2 November 2020, he reaffirmed support for the mediation efforts by the European Union, the Russian Federation and the United States.
ANDRÉS EFREN MONTALVO SOSA (Ecuador) condemned the 19 September events, stressing that there is no excuse for the use of military force, in violation of international law and international humanitarian law. These acts are contrary to the provisional measures issued by the International Court of Justice on 7 December 2021, he added. The recently announced ceasefire must be fully implemented on the ground and serve to de-escalate tensions to create the necessary guarantees for the security and stability of the region’s inhabitants. In this regard, it remains essential to facilitate unrestricted access to humanitarian aid to avoid worsening the situation of the civilian population. He called on the parties to resume dialogue and negotiations under all frameworks, initiatives and tools that allow for a peaceful solution within international law and the United Nations Charter. Any agreement must have the necessary guarantees aimed at protecting the populations living in that region, in full respect for human rights, he stressed.
GENG SHUANG (China), taking note of yesterday’s ceasefire agreement as mediated by the Russian Federation, said that Beijing will continue to closely follow the development. Expressing hope that the truce holds and the situation calms down, he stressed that the safety of the Russian Federation’s peacekeepers should be guaranteed. Azerbaijan and Armenia are neighbours that cannot move away from each other. Peace is in the interest of not only both countries but the region and beyond. His country has always advocated for the need to de-escalate tensions and avoid casualties, he noted, emphasizing that Baku and Yerevan should meet halfway and resolve issues between them through diplomacy. To that end, his country is ready to play a constructive role, he added.
CAROLYN ABENA ANIMA OPPONG-NTIRI (Ghana) said the recent anti-terrorist operation carried out by Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh is a reminder of the fragile peace in the region. Extending condolences to the families of those civilians and Russian peacekeepers who needlessly lost their lives, she said an escalation of tensions in Nagorno-Karabakh is one that Europe and the rest of the world “can ill afford at this time of immense global security and political upheavals”. If the future reintegration of Nagorno-Karabakh with the rest of Azerbaijan is to be successful, the approach must be reconciliatory and non-confrontational. She also urged that the recent developments not be allowed to derail earlier ceasefire arrangements and the progress towards a comprehensive settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan. “Nine months on, and with the winter season drawing close, we remain deeply concerned about the fate of the thousands, especially women and children, whose access to life-saving aid, medical supplies and other critical necessities remains significantly diminished,” she added, reiterating an appeal for unimpeded humanitarian access as well as free movement along the Lachin Corridor.
DOMINGOS ESTÊVÃO FERNANDES (Mozambique) voiced concern about the escalation of military violence and offered condolences for the lives lost, including those of Russian peacekeepers. He also expressed regret that, after the repeated appeals of the Council and the international community, violence has taken precedence over dialogue, compromising peace efforts between the two countries. The Charter of the United Nations is unequivocal regarding the pacific settlement of disputes, he stressed, calling once again on the parties to end the violence and favour a genuine dialogue to achieve peace. He welcomed the ceasefire agreement reached under the mediation of the Russian Federation’s peace mission in the region and urged strict compliance thereto. He also urged parties to fully comply with the trilateral agreement of November 2020, which declared the ceasefire and end of all hostilities in the conflict.
EDWIGE KOUMBY MISSAMBO (Gabon), recalling the deadly fighting in the region in 2020, stressed that everything must be done to avoid a return to the past. A political solution based on international law, and particularly the implementation of the 2020 tripartite agreement, is the only option to get out of the murderous cycle of violence, implement a ceasefire, and resolve the situation long-term. Diplomatic channels must remain open and partners with influence on the region should step up their engagement to maintain communication toward a political solution. The ceasefire agreement yesterday and the just-begun negotiations will make it possible to restore peace in Karabakh and uphold the territorial integrity of each of the parties. Welcoming signs of normalization, she called on the parties to adhere to it. She also called on all parties to facilitate access of humanitarian personnel to population in need without restriction or politicization. Further, she appealed to the parties to not exacerbate tensions by stoking historical fears or resorting to hate speech. Rather, they should build on what unites them.
HAMAMOTO YUKIYA (Japan) expressed serious concern over the worsening situation in Nagorno-Karabakh and strongly called for an immediate cessation of hostilities, and for Azerbaijan to stop its military activities. “Any unilateral change to worsen the situation is not acceptable,” he said, adding that, although the military confrontation was stopped, the situation is still uncertain. The Council should remain seized of the situation on the ground, particularly the humanitarian situation there. Safeguarding local livelihoods must be the utmost priority. The settlement of the conflict is crucial for peace and stability in the Caucasus region, she stressed, calling on all parties to resolve issues through peaceful means.
IGLI HASANI, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of Albania, Council President for September and speaking in his national capacity, called once again on the parties to prioritize the protection of civilians and preservation of residential areas and the civilian infrastructure. Also calling for restraint, calm, peace and dialogue, he urged both sides to remain committed to the ceasefire agreement reached yesterday and to avoid any further escalation. Voicing support for the efforts between Armenia and Azerbaijan to resolve long-standing issues, he stressed that the normalization process should be intensified and the negotiations on a peace treaty held in the United States, Brussels and other European capitals in the last months should continue. Recalling the public affirmations of their commitment to the 1991 Almaty Declaration and the territorial integrity of the two countries, he urged Armenia and Azerbaijan to make use of the international community’s readiness and sincere efforts to find a just and peaceful solution to pending issues.
ARARAT MIRZOYAN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Armenia, said that, during the General Assembly’s session, currently under way, where members of the international community gathered to look for ways to maintain peace and security worldwide, Azerbaijan unleashed yet another large-scale offensive against the people of Nagorno-Karabakh in blatant violation of international law and the trilateral statement of 9 November 2020. Stepanakert and other cities and settlements came under intense and indiscriminate shelling with use of missiles, heavy artillery, combat unmanned arial vehicles and aviation, including prohibited cluster munition. The current aggression came as a culmination of a 10-month blockade of the Lachin Corridor and forced starvation imposed on the people of Nagorno-Karabakh. Severe shortage of food, medicine, fuel, natural gas, electricity and other essential goods had already brought the vulnerable people of Nagorno-Karabakh to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe.
Underscoring the failure of the Council and the international community to adequately respond to Armenia’s repeated requests, he said that mutual recognition of sovereignty and territorial integrity cannot be used as a license for mass atrocities, including ethnic cleansings in Nagorno-Karabakh. Against this backdrop, he appealed to the Council to take urgent measures, including the immediate deployment of a UN inter-agency mission to Nagorno-Karabakh to monitor and assess the human rights, humanitarian and security situations. The Council should also ensure full cooperation of the parties in good faith with the ICRC to address the consequences of the military actions, including the removal and identification of the bodies, search and rescue of personnel missing in action, and safe, unimpeded delivery of humanitarian assistance. As well, the Council should demand the exit of any Azerbaijani military and law enforcement bodies from all civilian settlements in Nagorno-Karabakh and explore the possibility for the deployment of an UN-mandated peacekeeping force there, he said.
JEYHUN BAYRAMOV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, said Armenia’s request to the Council is related to his country’s local counter-terror measures within its sovereign territory, in full compliance with international law. That country’s reckless abuse of the Council must be resolutely rejected, he stressed. He reported that the long overdue meeting of the Special Representative of the Government of Azerbaijan with Armenian residents’ representatives took place today in Yevlakh. Detailing Armenia’s disregard for its international obligations, he said the counter-terror measures demonstrated the scale of Armenia’s illegal militarization, despite the commitment it made under the trilateral statement to cease all military activities against Azerbaijan. Holding up photos, he stressed that the heavy Armenian military equipment pictured make it clear that such equipment was not in Azerbaijan’s territory for peaceful purposes.
His country had been warning about Armenia’s looming military adventure for several weeks, he continued. Further describing Armenia’s actions, he said the counter-terror measures were limited and proportionate to the threat posed to his country and its citizens. They were exclusively aimed at neutralizing legitimate military targets within Azerbaijan’s sovereign territory, and thus align with its right to self-defence enshrined in the Charter, he added. Despite Armenia’s destructive position, his country remains ready for a genuine dialogue and negotiations, he said, voicing hope that its efforts will finally be reciprocated. He also reaffirmed his country’s determination to guarantee to ethnic Armenian residents of the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan all rights and freedoms in line with its Constitution and relevant international human rights instruments.
ANNALENA BAERBOCK, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, warned that Azerbaijan has chosen to create facts on the ground by military force, condemning Baku’s military assault and calling on it to cease its military actions permanently and completely. Azerbaijan carries the responsibility to protect the civilian population living reliably and fully in Nagorno-Karabakh. A displacement and forced exodus of ethnic Armenians from Karabakh is not acceptable. “Just at the moment when a glimpse of hope was emerging, when humanitarian supplies were allowed into Nagorno-Karabakh, Baku broke its repeated assurances to refrain from the use of force, causing tremendous suffering to a population already in dire straits,” she reported. The people of Nagorno-Karabakh deserve to live in security and to have their rights protected. A lasting peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia can only be achieved at the negotiating table, she said, urging both sides to return to the talks mediated by the European Union.
BURAK AKÇAPAR, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Türkiye, spotlighting his country’s ongoing support for the peace process, said that, in the last three years, Armenia has been reluctant to fully implement the trilateral declaration, pointing to, among others, the illegal military formation in Karabakh and its armed attacks, and the deployment of weaponry that remains in the region. Azerbaijan sought to address those issues, as well as matters regarding humanitarian initiatives, through dialogue, but was met with no cooperation. Moreover, the Armenian side continues to spread false information about the situation in the region, abusing international platforms for a fake agenda.
After three years of suffering, Azerbaijan was left with no choice but to take measures it deemed necessary for its own security and launched its counter-terrorism operation against the illegal military formation in Karabakh, he continued. Echoing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in his statement to the General Assembly earlier this week, he said: “We expect Armenia to fulfil its promises... Karabakh is Azerbaijani territory; the imposition of a status other than that will never be accepted.” He urged Armenia and other interested parties “not to waste this latest opportunity, not to repeat the previous and recent mistakes, and to act with the prospect to live as peaceful and prosperous South Caucuses for future generations”.
JOSEP BORRELL FONTELLES, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, asked Azerbaijan to take concrete measures, including ensuring unimpeded humanitarian access to the civilian population in need, including through a full re-opening of the Lachin corridor. The European Commission today announced €500,000 in humanitarian aid to support the people in need. Baku should engage in a comprehensive and transparent dialogue with the Karabakh Armenians to ensure their rights and security, including their right to live in their homes in dignity, he said, taking note that a meeting took place today. He also called on Azerbaijan to reaffirm its unequivocal commitment to the territorial integrity of Armenia, and agree to the delimitation of their bilateral border, in line with the 1991 Almaty Declaration. Calling for the resumption of negotiations between Yerevan and Baku on all pending issues with the aim of concluding a peace treaty, he stressed that the bloc remains committed to continue facilitating dialogue between all sides.