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Azerbaijan's Parliament Calls For French Removal From Nagorno-Karabakh Mediation

By RFE/RL's Armenian Service, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service November 26, 2020

Azerbaijani lawmakers on November 26 called for France to be expelled from the Minsk Group mediating in the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute after the French Senate backed the breakaway region's independence claim.

The French upper house on November 25 adopted a nonbinding resolution calling on France to recognize the separatist region as an independent state.

The move came after Armenia agreed to a Moscow-brokered peace deal earlier this month that ended weeks of fresh fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh.

France, together with Russia and the United States, cochairs the Minsk Group, which has led talks seeking a solution to the conflict for decades but has failed to achieve a lasting agreement.

The French senators' nonbinding resolution called on the French government to recognize the "Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh" as an independent state. The resolution suggested that recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh as a state could be used as "an instrument of negotiations for the purpose of establishing a lasting peace."

Nagorno-Karabakh's declaration of independence from Azerbaijan has not been recognized by any country.

The French resolution also stated that "the security and freedom of the Armenian populations in Nagorno-Karabakh are not guaranteed by the Republic of Azerbaijan."

In response, Azerbaijani lawmakers adopted a resolution on November 26 urging the government to appeal to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which oversees the Minsk Group, to expel France from its presidency.

They also urged Baku to revise its "political...and economic relations" with France.

Parliament speaker Sahiba Gafarova said a "dirty political campaign against Azerbaijan" had been orchestrated in the French Senate and that Azerbaijani lawmakers had to respond.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has praised the French resolution as "historic."

Under the Moscow-brokered peace agreement, Armenia is ceding control of parts of the enclave's territory as well as seven surrounding districts of Azerbaijan it held since the 1990s.

The Armenian separatists are retaining control over most of Nagorno-Karabakh's territory and some 2,000 Russian peacekeepers have been deployed along frontline areas and to protect a land link connecting Karabakh with Armenia.

Pashinian suggested on November 25 that Russian peacekeeping forces will likely remain in Nagorno-Karabakh for more than the five years envisaged by the agreement that stopped the Armenian-Azerbaijani war on November 10.

Russia has extensive relations with both Armenia and Azerbaijan but provides security guarantees to the former.

On November 25, Azerbaijani troops moved into the Kalbacar district after it was handed over by Armenia as part of the truce deal.

No incidents were reported during the initial stage of the handover and a spokesman for Russia's Defense Ministry said his country's peacekeeping mission remains in close contact with local administrations to try to prevent any possible incidents.

Kalbachar, wedged between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia, was initially scheduled for handover on November 15 but the deadline was postponed by Azerbaijan for humanitarian reasons.

Azerbaijan lost control of Kalbacar during the war with Armenia in the early 1990s as they transitioned into independent countries amid the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Kalbacar -- which the Armenians call Karvachar -- was a strategic link between Armenia's internationally recognized border and Armenian-held areas in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Armenia agreed to hand over three districts ringing Nagorno-Karabakh -- Agdam, Kalbachar, and Lachin -- after nearly three decades under Armenian control as part of the Russian-brokered agreement, following the worst fighting in the region since the 1990s.

Lachin is scheduled for handover by December 1.

With reporting by AFP, TASS, and Interfax

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/azerbaijan-s- parliament-calls-for-french-removal-from-nagorno -karabakh-mediation/30970883.html

Copyright (c) 2020. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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