RIGA - There must be an immediate halt to the escalation of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, and the Armenian and Azerbaijani sides must return to talks, the chairman of the Saeima's Foreign Affairs Committee Rihards Kols (National Alliance) said after meetings today with the Armenian and Azerbaijani ambassadors to Latvia.
In talks with the ambassadors, Kols expressed concern about developments in the region and called on both sides to cease hostilities in the region immediately in order to avoid casualties and to begin resolving the conflict through diplomatic means.
"This conflict can only be resolved peacefully, based on the principles of international law," Kols said. He said that the dialogue should be conducted with the co-chairs of the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
At the request of the ambassadors of the two countries, the Foreign Affairs Committee heard the views expressed by the two parties on the causes of the conflict, the course of the conflict and possible solutions to end active hostilities in order to return to diplomatic talks.
The AFP news agency reports that fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region spilled over into Thursday, with fresh shelling in the province's capital ahead of a first meeting of international mediators in Geneva.
Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov was to meet diplomats from France, Russia and the United States, who make up the "Minsk Group" that has sought a solution to the Karabakh conflict since the 1990s.
Armenia's foreign minister will not be attending, after Yerevan ruled out talks between the two countries' top diplomats as long as clashes are ongoing. Zohrab Mnatsakanyan will instead meet his Russian counterpart in Moscow on Monday.
Explosions and sirens sounded in Nagorno-Karabakh's regional capital Stepanakert as the city continued to face regular shelling, AFP journalists said.
Heavy bombardments have levelled many homes since fighting erupted late last month and Stepanakert is pockmarked with unexploded ordinance and wide craters from shelling.
Defense officials in Azerbaijan and Armenia said fighting continued into Thursday, with both sides claiming to have inflicted heavy losses and accusing the other of shelling civilian areas.