Armenia, Azerbaijan agree to not target civilians

Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed Friday in Geneva not to target civilians in a conflict in Upper Karabakh, according to a group founded to find a solution to hostilities.

"The sides will not deliberately target civilian populations or non-military objects in accordance with international humanitarian law," said a statement by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)'s Minsk Group' co-chairs -- Igor Popov from Russia, France's Stephane Visconti and Andrew Schofer from the US.

The Group was formed in 1992 to find a peaceful solution to the Armenia-Azerbaijan Upper Karabakh conflict.

Earlier Friday, the co-chairs met separately and jointly with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov and Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan.

Also at the meetings was the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson in Office (PRCiO) Andrzej Kasprzyk.

Consultations were held with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) President Peter Maurer.

The co-chairs reiterated calls to implement commitments "in full," including the immediate establishment of a humanitarian cease-fire, under previous truce deals on Oct.10 in Moscow, Oct 17 -- reaffirmed with Paris -- and Oct. 25 armistice in Washington.

The statement underlined that "without prejudice to the implementation of the ceasefire or other commitments," the sides agreed to take several steps on an urgent basis, including actively engaging in the implementation of the recovery and exchange of remains on the battlefield by providing the ICRC and PRCiO the "necessary safety guarantees for facilitation."

It also said they agreed within a week to deliver to the ICRC and PRCiO a list of "currently detained prisoners of war" to provide access and eventual exchange.

"The sides will provide in writing comments and questions related to possible ceasefire verification mechanisms in accordance with item 2 of the October 10 joint statement," it added.

OSCE said that the co-chairs will continue working with Baku and Yerevan "intensively" to find a peaceful solution to the conflict.

Since clashes erupted Sept. 27, Armenia has repeatedly attacked Azerbaijani civilians and forces, even violating three humanitarian cease-fires since Oct. 10.

To date, at least 91 civilians, including 11 children and 27 women, have been killed in Armenian attacks, according to Azerbaijan's Chief Prosecutor's Office.

About 400 people, including at least 14 babies, 36 children, and 101 women, have also been injured in the attacks.

At least 2,442 homes, 92 apartment buildings, and 428 public buildings have been damaged and become unusable, the authority said.

UPPER KARABAKH CONFLICT

Relations between the two former Soviet republics have been tense since 1991 when the Armenian military occupied Upper Karabakh, or Nagorno-Karabakh, an internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan, and seven adjacent regions.

Four UN Security Council resolutions and two from the UN General Assembly, as well as international organizations, demand the "immediate complete and unconditional withdrawal of the occupying forces" from occupied Azerbaijani territory.

About 20% of Azerbaijan's territory-including Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent regions-has been under illegal Armenian occupation for nearly three decades.

A cease-fire, however, was agreed to in 1994.

World powers, including Russia, France, and the US, have called for a sustainable cease-fire. Turkey, meanwhile, has supported Baku's right to self-defense and demanded the withdrawal of Armenia's occupying forces.

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