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OSCE Minsk Group Calls for Return of all POWs


By Emilio Luciano Cricchio 

The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs have released a statement calling for the release of all POWs and for high-level talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The OSCE Minsk Group was founded in 1992, to encourage a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and consists of three co-chair countries, France, the US and Russia. 

The statement outlined several unresolved issues which according to the Co-Chairs are necessary to establish the environment needed for a long-lasting peace. This included the release of POWs, the exchange of intel regarding existing minefields that have yet to be dismantled, lifting restrictions on access to Karabakh, including for international humanitarian organizations, the preservation of cultural and historical heritage, and encouraging direct channels between the two peoples. 

The statement went on to appeal to both sides to restart high-level talks, under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs. 

The statement by the Co-Chairs furthermore affirmed their intention to continue its activities and operations, and called for a possible expansion of the mission of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, adding that both sides of the conflict should give the OSCE Minsk Group access in all areas necessary. 

This entails resuming visits to Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding regions, as well as carrying out assessment and mediation roles.

“The Co-Chairs remind the sides of the requirement to provide unimpeded access and maximum flexibility of movement with regard to the Co-Chairs’ travel itineraries,” the statement read. 

The statement did however point out some areas which it described as “satisfying,” including the consolidation of the ceasefire, the return of the deceased, the return of the internally displaced and refugees, the provision of humanitarian assistance, and unblocking transport communication in the region. 

This statement by the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs is one of the most comprehensive statements the group has released in some time. 

The previous statement by the Co-Chairs on February 16, merely stated that video conferences had been held separately with Armenian Foreign Minister Ara Ayvazian and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov. 

Another statement on December 14, 2020, did call for the release of POWs and high-level talks.