ASG Miroslav Jenča’s Remarks at the Security Council
“Letter dated 13 September 2022 from the Permanent Representative of Armenia to the United Nations addressed to the President of the Security Council (S/2022/688)”
New York, 21 September 2023
Mr. President, Esteemed members of the Council, Excellencies,
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.
According to official statements, Azerbaijan had informed the Russian peacekeeping force and the Joint Russian-Turkish Monitoring Center of its activities as intended to prevent large-scale provocations by the Armenian armed forces, neutralize their military infrastructure, and ensure their withdrawal and the restoration of the constitutional order of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Developments indicated a serious escalation in military operations with reports of Azerbaijani forces breaking through the Line of Contact. There were casualties reported, including among the civilian population as well as evacuations of some thousands of people within the region. The Russian peacekeeping force, which itself suffered casualties, documented numerous ceasefire violations.
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 in a position to verify or confirm these various claims and allegations.
Allow me nonetheless to recall the Secretary-General’s extreme concern over the recent resumption of hostilities that resulted in the tragic loss of civilian lives, including children.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk also expressed concerns about the impact of the renewed use of armed force on civilians. He noted that it is critical to return to the peace process and work on an agreement grounded in the respect for human rights.
The Secretary-General urges all concerned to strictly observe the 2020 ceasefire in accordance with the 9 November joint statement, and to continue implementing their obligations, notably as they relate to international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
The escalations occurred following the much-needed delivery, on the previous day, the 18th of September, of shipments of wheat flour and essential medical items simultaneously through both the Lachin corridor and the Aghdam road.
Members of the Council will recall that, over the past months, the issues of freedom of movement of civilians and humanitarian access have been major sources of tension and sharp exchanges between Baku and Yerevan.
The Secretary-General remains deeply concerned about the impact of the escalation on the fragile humanitarian situation and calls on all parties to urgently facilitate unimpeded access of humanitarian relief to civilians in need.
We also note the International Committee of the Red Cross’ concerns about the humanitarian impact of the latest events on the already vulnerable population in the region. Recalling the extremely limited access to basic commodities and healthcare over the past few months, the ICRC assesses that the situation was likely to deepen their suffering.
The developments of the past few days should be seen in the context of the broader pattern of regular ceasefire violations which have continued to persist.
We note yesterday’s announcement of a cessation of hostilities, with the situation on the ground remaining fluid. We also understand that, in a positive step, representatives of the local population and the Government of Azerbaijan met earlier today for an initial exchange.
In conclusion, we call for a credible and durable cessation of all hostilities. Any renewed escalation would lead to further loss of life and human suffering and further set back internationally supported peace efforts.
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, are the only sustainable way forward.
The Secretariat will remain in close contact with all relevant actors and the concerned parties and stands ready to support ongoing peace efforts, as needed. The Secretariat is also ready and prepared to conduct humanitarian needs assessments, if given access, and provide assistance as needed.
Thank you for your attention.