ACT Alliance Statement on the Military Escalation in the Caucasus

ACT Alliance has followed the deteriorating situation over Nagorno-Karabakh with dismay at the escalation of the conflict. We are highly concerned by the renewed violence and use of military force. The new bloodshed adds to the long history of pain that people in the whole region and on different sides to the conflict have been suffering over the past 30 years.

We are deeply saddened by the increased suffering and loss of life, both civilian and military, that have been the result of this violence, and wish to express our sincere condolences to the grieving families and pray for the full and swift recovery of all the injured.

We are concerned that the geographical scale of the fighting and military operations may expand beyond the current conflict zone and result in a humanitarian crisis that would exacerbate the already difficult humanitarian situation caused by the COVID-19 outbreak in the region.

As faith based actors who over the past three decades have been fostering understanding among the people in the region, and have been promoting local perspectives for peace, we deeply regret that violence has returned at a scale that had not been seen in the region for decades. We stand with our members and partners in the region in these painful times. We stand in solidarity with all who call for and work towards a peaceful solution to the situation.

United in the view that peace and security cannot be imposed by violent means, we call upon all belligerents to immediately end further military action, and to agree on and implement a humanitarian ceasefire (in line with UN Secretary General’s call for a worldwide ceasefire given the COVID-19 pandemic), in order to allow civilians to seek shelter and gain access to much-needed assistance, as well as to collect and mourn their dead.

We call upon the political leaders of the opposing sides to tone down belligerent rhetoric, abstain from further military action and resume peaceful negotiations. We call upon all leaders of states with stakes in the region to refrain from exacerbating the conflict, but rather use their influence in order to stop the bloodshed, support a humanitarian ceasefire and pave the way for a negotiated resolution.

We insist other nations should desist from any intervention in the conflict, except in pursuing and encouraging its peaceful resolution and offering humanitarian aid. In the view of allegations and reports concerning the involvement of foreign mercenaries as well as the continuing influx of weapons to the region, we call upon all parties to finally respect and implement the OSCE’s request for an arms embargo dating back to 1992.

As organisations engaged in both humanitarian assistance and community development, we face the negative impact of the unresolved conflict on the local populations on a daily basis. We know that the lack of political will on the different sides of the divide to engage in serious and meaningful negotiations – as well as the failure of the international community to prepare the ground – has translated locally into long-term uncertainty and instability, a lack of perspectives for development, a growing hostility and deadly volatility along the line of contact, as well as the continuous suffering of many under the so-called ‘status quo’.

While continuing our efforts to minimize this impact at the local level, we call upon the international community – OSCE, EU, Council of Europe, NATO, UN and their member / participating states, and in particular upon the countries represented in the OSCE Minsk Group – to increase their efforts to revive the negotiation process within the Minsk Group format, and to fully back the Minsk Group Co-Chairs in their work.

The current military escalation constitutes a severe backlash for the peace process and exposes the extreme volatility of this unresolved conflict and its inherent risks for the whole region. But it also offers a new window of opportunity for more meaningful, more serious and more effective negotiations. Such meaningful negotiation will challenge all parties to take bold steps by showing goodwill as well as the readiness to compromise that others might interpret or depict as weakness.

As ACT Alliance whose actions are guided by faith, we stand together with and encourage our members in Armenia to engage in all possible actions that favour the peaceful resolution of the conflict that is acceptable for all sides and ensures safety for all peoples. We take pride in remembering the strength and courage of the faith leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan during their joint calls for peace in the past. Inspired by their leadership, we call upon all people of faith and particularly faith leaders, be they Christian or Muslim, to raise their voices and urge all parties to stop the bloodshed, as well as to encourage the swift resumption of peace talks.