Along with our colleagues at the World Council of Churches, the National Council of Churches USA insists on an end to the fighting on the Azerbaijan-Armenia border. The current fighting taking place over the last several days is the latest episode of violence in a long-standing conflict between the two countries.
The current violence is particularly troubling because it takes place during the global fight against the coronavirus pandemic, an overriding battle that the United Nations Secretary General has stated should be the reason for a global ceasefire in other disputes, and that the UN Security Council has unanimously confirmed with the adoption of Resolution 2532. Previous to the Security Council action, Armenia had endorsed the ceasefire; Azerbaijan has yet to do so.
While it is reported that each side accuses the other of targeting civilian populations, it appears that the violence has indeed escalated to include civilian targets in Armenia, as evidenced by an attack on a factory producing personal protective equipment to help with the response to the pandemic. Armenia further accuses the Azerbaijan military of using its own civilian population as a shield. The NCC is outraged by these actions. Such threats against civilians go against all manner of principle, and indeed contradict the established standards for armed conflict. This makes the call to end the fighting all the more urgent.
We pray that those who have chosen this precise time to resume hostilities come to their senses and end the fighting. And we further pray that, when all of the world should be pulling together to fight Covid-19, they look for ways to resolve the overall conflict between their two countries once and for all.