Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks during a meeting on the Russian peacekeeping mission in Nagorno-Karabakh, via videoconference
Mr President, colleagues,
During these days, since November 13, we have been in close contact with the American and French co-chairs, who visited Moscow. I met with them, and my colleagues met with them as well.
We provided them with full information that has confirmed once again that the agreement reached by the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia signed on November 9 is in full consonance with the principles that were agreed upon in the past few years by the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group and received broad support throughout the world.
Mr President, at the current stage we are focusing on the work with international organisations per your instructions. This is primarily the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Its president, Peter Maurer, visited Moscow and discussed in detail the situation and prospects for our cooperation at the Foreign Ministry, the Defence Ministry, the Emergencies Ministry and our other agencies that are involved in this work in various ways.
The Red Cross is unique because it has representative offices in Yerevan, Baku and Stepanakert. They had to leave Stepanakert during the hostilities but came back several days ago. They are interested in very close contacts with our peacekeepers and the International Humanitarian Response Centre. You have set us these tasks, and we are guided by them in all of our actions.
More work must be done with UN agencies, such as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) and UNESCO. These agencies are not always represented in the region, but they are working on it.
It is important to receive from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees authentic statistics on the number of people who need aid. In tentative estimate, these are about 90,000 people who left for Armenia and about 45,000 Azerbaijanis who left the districts adjacent to Nagorno-Karabakh during the hostilities.
Of course, this office is interested in receiving support from all relevant parties so they can start their work, helping those who had to leave their homes to return, and at the same time preventing forced expulsion from homes as it could happen in Shushi. In general, this town has not sustained heavy damage and many people from Azerbaijan are now moving there now. Our peacekeepers are actively facilitating these processes.
Finally, there is a separate issue – the so-called historical refugees from Azerbaijan who left the region during the war of 1992–1994.
The World Food Programme has received an official invitation from Yerevan. At the same time, they established contact with Azerbaijan although the WFP has had no office in Baku since 2013. However, a proposal on food support has already been sent to Baku, among other places.
Today, I spoke with UNESCO Director-General Ms Azoulay. She published a statement today on her intention to send a special UNESCO mission to the conflict zone to assess the situation on site and determine what needs to be done to restore and protect historical landmarks and religious sites, and to provide assistance in education. Of course, this help will be provided to both Armenia and Azerbaijan.
We believe that all UN agencies we both mentioned must be encouraged to be more active in offering help to the sides. They know about their potentials in this respect better than anyone else does. We urged our US and French co-chairs and other members of the OSCE Minsk Group and the UN Security Council to do all they can to encourage these activities by international agencies.
Regretfully, we feel that there is a tendency to try to slow down the implementation of the November 9 Statement by the Presidents of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia, to prevent that Statement from completely materialising even though everyone has to admit that it is being successfully implemented. We also see attempts to alter the nature of the peacekeeping operation, so far behind the scenes. The attempts are subtle so far but they do exist.
Our task is as follows. Together with the Defence Ministry, Emergencies Ministry and our border guards we are assessing the situation on the ground and respectively correlating the signals we send to international organisations encouraging them to more actively offer their capabilities for an early settlement of humanitarian issues, issues of preserving the cultural heritage in the region.
My report is complete. Thank you.
Source: Official website of the President of Russian kremlin.ru