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Armenia/Azerbaijan: OSCE Suspends Monitoring Of Ceasefire Line

Munich, 25 April 1997 (RFE/RL) - The Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe has suspended monitoring of the ceasefire line between Armenia and Azerbaijan because shots were fired at its chief monitor last week.

The current chairman of OSCE, Danish foreign minister Niels Helveg Petersen, issued a statement yesterday saying monitoring would cease until there better guarantees for the safety of the OSCE monitors.

The ceasefire line marks the position of the opposing forces when a ceasefire arranged by OSCE came into effect in May 1994. It is patrolled regularly by OSCE's chief monitor in the region, Andrzej Kasprzyk.

On April 15, Kasprzyk's car was fired on in the Goradiz district in the southern section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani front. The car was flying an OSCE flag. Reports at the time said the shots were fired from the Armenian side. No one was wounded in the attack.

In the statement, OSCE said both Armenia and Azerbaijan had given their consent to the monitoring activities and both the OSCE personnel and their vehicles were easily recognizable.

This was in keeping with an agreement reached after previous shooting incidents in April and November last year.

It said all monitoring of the Line-of-Contact between the hostile sides and of the Armenian-Azerbaijan border had been stopped. It would resume only when all sides made it clear they wanted OSCE monitoring to continue. OSCE said it also requires credible assurances that frontline forces will be informed in advance of planned OSCE monitoring visits and that they will be given strict instructions to refrain from firing so long as OSCE personnel and vehicles are in the area.

The hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan stem from the political situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, which is an enclave inside Azerbaijan largely populated by ethnic Armenians. Fighting erupted in 1988 when the ethnic Armenians declared independence. Thousands were killed or wounded until the ceasefire came into effect in 1994. Despite years of negotiations, the OSCE has been unable to convert the ceasefire into a permanent settlement.