OSCE Calls on Armenia, Azerbaijan to Pull Back Snipers
After an incident in which an Armenian sniper allegedly shot an Azerbaijani child across the line of contact between the two sides in the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh, the OSCE has called on both sides to remove their snipers from the line of contact.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis, the new chairman-in-office after Kazakhstan's chairing of the organization last year, made the comments at a briefing in Kazakhstan. From Reuters:
"Withdrawal of snipers would set a good example and would be appreciated by the political community."
"We will take what your president and your minister [referring to the Kazakh leadership] did and try to promote resolution by one millimetre, two millimetres, at least to have snipers withdrawn, at least to execute, one, two or three security measures, measures of trust. We will see how it goes."
The child's death is under dispute. According to the Azerbaijan news agency APA, the victim was a ten-year-old boy, Fariz Badalov, who was shot while playing outside his house. But Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan denied that the incident occurred:
The Armenian President noted that the recent statement is a slander, since hostilities against civilians, let alone against children, run counter to the moral portrait of Armenian soldiers. As for the certain incident, similar accusations are baseless, since even territorial peculiarities of the region make it impossible.
No immediate word on whether Azerbaijan or Armenia are complying with the request to withdraw the snipers. As Azubalis says, we will see how it goes.
UPDATE, thanks to Emil Sanamyan: This OSCE proposal dates to December 2008, so it would be more correct to say that the OSCE has reiterated its call. As a U.S. diplomat, charge d'affaires to the OSCE Kyle Scott, said (pdf) in March 2009:
We regret that not all of the parties agreed to the recommendation made by the Minsk Group Co-Chairs at the Ministerial Council meeting in Helsinki in December 2008 to pull snipers back from the Line of Contact.
And a Russian counterpart blamed the Azerbaijani side.
Joshua Kucera, a senior correspondent, is Eurasianet's former Turkey/Caucasus editor and has written for the site since 2007.