UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Sunday urged Azerbaijan and Armenia to immediately end clashes in the Upper Karabakh, or Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Condemning the use of force and civilian deaths, Guterres called on the parties to immediately stop fighting, de-escalate tensions and return to “meaningful” negotiations without delay, his spokesman said in a statement.

The statement also said that Guterres will speak by phone with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.

The US State Department also called on the two countries to immediately end clashes in a statement.

“The United States is alarmed by reports of large-scale military action along the Line of Contact in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone that has resulted in significant casualties, including civilians. We extend our condolences to the families of those killed and injured,” the statement said.

“The United States condemns in the strongest terms this escalation of violence.”

The statement stressed that Deputy Secretary Stephen Biegun called Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov and Armenia’s Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan “to urge both sides to cease hostilities immediately, to use the existing direct communication links between them to avoid further escalation, and to avoid unhelpful rhetoric and actions that further raise tensions on the ground.”

“The United States believes participation in the escalating violence by external parties would be deeply unhelpful and only exacerbate regional tensions.

“We urge the sides to work with the Minsk Group Co-Chairs to return to substantive negotiations as soon as possible. As a Co-Chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, the United States remains committed to helping the sides achieve a peaceful and sustainable settlement to the conflict,” it added.

Border clashes broke out earlier in the day after Armenian forces targeted Azerbaijani civilian settlements and military positions. The number of casualties is not yet known.

Armenia has once again proved that it is the biggest obstacle to peace and stability in the region, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said earlier in a statement, adding Turkey will stand with Azerbaijan by all means.

Baku has the right of self-defense to protect its people and territory, it added.

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

Four UN Security Council and two UN General Assembly resolutions as well as many international organizations demand the withdrawal of the occupying forces.

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.

*Writing by Erdogan Cagatay Zontur

Copyright 2022 Anadolu Agency. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.