Merkel offers "constructive support" to ease South Caucasus tensions

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday offered "constructive support" from Germany to resolve fresh tensions between Armenia and neighbouring Azerbaijan over the long-disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region in the South Caucasus mountains.

It is "of the utmost importance that [the] conflicts are resolved," said Merkel, whose country currently holds the chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which is trying to broker a settlement between the warring countries.

Merkel was speaking after a meeting with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan in Berlin, who also met President Joachim Gauck at his residence later in the day. Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian and his German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, also held discussions in the capital.

The Armenian delegation's visit to Berlin comes almost a year after Germany acknowledged that a campaign against Armenians a century ago was genocidal and that German actions were partly to blame.

At the time, Merkel's ruling coalition presented a parliamentary resolution that described Turkish actions against Armenians in 1915-16 as genocidal. Turkey acknowledges some of the killings, but says they do not constitute genocide.

Gauck said last year that German military advisers helped to coordinate the deportations of Armenians at the time and that his country was "in some cases complicit" in the genocide. Germany was an ally of the Ottoman Empire during World War I.

Azerbaijan and Armenia on Wednesday accused each other of numerous ceasefire violations in Nagorno-Karabakh, but the Defence Ministry in Baku said in a statement that "the situation along the front line remains tense but stable."

The mountainous region, which has a mostly Christian Armenian population, comprises about 4,500 square kilometers within predominantly Muslim Azerbaijan.

The two former Soviet republics fought a six-year war over the region that ended with a ceasefire in 1994. An estimated 30,000 people were killed in the conflict.

Last update: Wed, 06/04/2016 - 17:45
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