The EU on Wednesday called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to engage in ‘meaningful’ negotiations to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. 

“Both sides need to engage in meaningful negotiations, which by the way had been not very much fruitful in the last 30 years, without preconditions under the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said during his speech at the European Parliament plenary session.

Borrell said the EU’s position is clear on Nagorno-Karabakh, which is “the fighting must stop,” urging both sides to start dialogue immediately.

“The war is not an alternative. We have to push both parts to start negotiating without preconditioning,” he said.

The top EU diplomat said he recently spoke to foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia, as well as with his Turkish and Russian counterparts, emphasizing the importance of de-escalation.

Borrell warned against attacks on areas with civil population, saying: “We have seen extremely worrying reports of a surge in attack on populated areas, which is taking a deadly toll on civilians.”

He called on both sides to fulfill their international obligations to protect civilians.

Warning about the misinformation from the conflict zone, Borrell said the reports need to be examined with “great precaution.”

Upper Karabakh conflict

Relations between the two former Soviet republics have been tense since 1991, when the Armenian military occupied Upper Karabakh, an internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan.

New clashes erupted on Sept. 27 but international calls for a halt to fighting have gone unanswered. Armenia has continued its attacks on civilians and Azerbaijani forces, who are the rightful owners of the occupied region.

The OSCE Minsk Group — co-chaired by France, Russia, and the US — was formed in 1992 to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, but to no avail. A cease-fire was agreed upon in 1994.

Turkey has condemned Armenian occupation, and vowed support for Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev has said Turkey must be involved in the process to resolve the decades-long conflict. 

Eastern Mediterranean

Meanwhile, amid recent tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, Borell, on the reopening of Turkish Cypriot coast of Maras, said: “Yesterday we issued a statement. And today, we will issue another one, asking Turkey to stop this activity.”

The coastline of the abandoned town of Maras in the Turkish Cypriot city of Gazimagusa will reopen on Thursday, Ersin Tatar, the premier of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus announced Tuesday in a joint news conference with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the capital Ankara.

Turkey is ready to support the Turkish Cypriot administration to fully open the town of Maras, saying “Turkish Cypriot people were again ignored at the latest EU summit. Turkey will not allow the continuation of this injustice.”

The Cyprus problem has remained unresolved for decades despite a series of efforts by the United Nations, while recent tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean have further complicated the problem.

The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) disputes the Greek Cypriot administration’s claim to be the sole legitimate government of the whole of Cyprus, while the Greek Cypriots oppose recognizing the political equality of the Turkish Cypriots.

The island has been divided into a Turkish Cypriot government in the northern third and Greek Cypriot administration in the south since a 1974 military coup aimed at Cyprus’ annexation by Greece.

Turkey’s military intervention as a guarantor power in 1974 had stopped years-long persecution and violence against Turkish Cypriots by ultra-nationalist Greek Cypriots.

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