The conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, which has flared up time and again in recent years, or indeed in recent decades, has boiled over into a hot war in recent weeks. All of us have been horrified to follow these developments, especially in the last few days. We have seen the use of missiles and rockets and also of heavy combat equipment. We have heard about the number of casualties, which is increasing every day. As always in a war, the civilian population is suffering in particular. The fighting is destroying bridges, villages, roads. Tens of thousands of people have already fled their homes, and their number is constantly growing. Well over a hundred civilians have already been killed by the violence, including in areas far beyond the conflict zones.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are advocating two goals in particular with a view to putting an end to this suffering. Firstly, we must alleviate the most acute suffering of people on the ground. The Red Cross, currently the only aid organisation with access to the disputed areas, asked the international community for nine million euro in emergency assistance in mid-October. As a first step, Germany will provide two million euro to help those who have lost their homes, belongings and livelihoods entirely. However, I also want to say that we continue to stand ready to do more should this be required. I say this above all in view of the upcoming winter in the Caucasus, which is already threatening to worsen the supply situation for the people still further.
Secondly, an immediate humanitarian ceasefire is all the more important. Azerbaijan and Armenia must put an end to the fighting – this isn’t something that not only we, but also the international community, are calling for – with no strings attached.
Both the Federal Chancellor and I have made this abundantly clear to both countries, and also to other parties involved in this context, such as Turkey, time and again. This is also the unanimous message sent by the United Nations, the OSCE and the European Union to the warring parties. In the UN Security Council, we have unanimously called on Armenia and Azerbaijan in recent weeks – and this is by no means an everyday occurrence in the UN Security Council at the moment – to finally put an end to the hostilities and return to the negotiating table. We wish to thank and are lending our support to the OSCE, which, through the Minsk Group, we believe continues to play the pivotal mediating role.
But despite all this unity at the international level, we have seen that the parties to the conflict are not changing tack at present. The humanitarian ceasefires brokered by the co-chairs of the Minsk Group, France, Russia and the US, were all broken within a very short space of time, most recently at the beginning of this week. We therefore have no choice but to turn up the international pressure on both parties to the conflict. Azerbaijan and Armenia must acknowledge at long last that a military solution to this long-standing conflict will not be accepted by the international community. A better negotiating position cannot be achieved on the battlefield. There is no alternative to a ceasefire and the commencement of fresh talks. Everyone must come to realise this, both the parties to the conflict and those who are otherwise involved. A signal must be sent by all stakeholders in the region that they too are playing a decisive role in ending the bloodshed.
Ladies and gentlemen, a humanitarian ceasefire would only be a first step, of course. But it is, at the end of the day, a vital prerequisite for ensuring that a lasting, namely a political, solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is achieved at long last. As a member of the Minsk Group, Germany is ready to promote the substantial negotiations that are necessary for this and which were apparently not conceivable in the past. And I wish to say that Turkey must also live up to its responsibility as a member of the Minsk Group and do its part to bring about a peaceful solution at long last.
The European Union can and will play an important role in this regard. After all, with its Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the Eastern Partnership, it has instruments at its disposal to support political negotiations and, down the line, also economic reconstruction in both Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Ladies and gentlemen, decision-makers in Yerevan and Baku and their supporters are ultimately faced with the choice of either fuelling a war that has already brought suffering and destruction to the people of Nagorno-Karabakh and which can all too easily turn into a regional conflagration, or – and this is the alternative for which we must strive – finally listening to the voice of the international community and changing course.
In all this, you should remember that lasting peace will only be achieved if the process of de-escalation gets under way now. That is our message, and that is the clear message of the entire international community, which it has expressed with a unanimity that, unfortunately, can rarely be achieved with regard to other conflicts.