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Azerbaijan lawmakers urge French removal from Karabakh mediation

A general view shows Hadrut town, recently liberated by Azeri troops following a military conflict against ethnic Armenian forces in the Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh, November 25, 2020. (Photo by Reuters)

Azerbaijan's lawmakers have called for France to be stripped of its mediation role in the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute to punish Paris for adopting a resolution backing the secession of the region.  

In a resolution adopted on Thursday, Azerbaijani lawmakers urged their government to review ties with Paris and to appeal to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to revoke France's role as a co-chair of the so-called Minsk Group, set up in 1992 to mediate the conflict. 

Parliament speaker Sahiba Gafarova said a "dirty political campaign" against Azerbaijan has been organized in the French senate where the Armenian lobby wields considerable influence and that Azerbaijani lawmakers have to respond. 

The Azeri foreign ministry said the French senate resolution, which has no legal force, has tainted France's reputation as a fair mediator and cast doubt on its neutrality. It described the resolution as a provocation and said it was biased.

This came a day after the French senate backed the breakaway region's secession claim. The French upper house on Wednesday adopted a non-binding resolution calling on the Paris government to recognize the Armenian-populated enclave of Azerbaijan as an independent state.

The decision came after Azerbaijan’s military forces entered another region occupied by Armenian forces outside Nagarno-Karabakh that was handed over to Baku under a Russian-brokered ceasefire that ended weeks of fierce fighting in the Caucasus region. The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said in a statement  that army units had entered the Kalbajar district.

Armenia, which strongly backs the separatist junta in Nagorno-Karabakh, has praised the French resolution as "historic".

Upon leaving occupied territories over the past weeks, ethnic Armenians set houses on fire, cut down trees and took everything away in order not to leave them for Azerbaijanis whom they drove from their homes some 28 years ago. 

Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but it has been held by ethnic Armenian separatists backed by Armenia since 1992, when they broke from Azerbaijan in a war that killed some 30,000 people.

This year’s fighting, the worst in decades, started in late September and came to an end earlier this month after Moscow brokered the ceasefire, which leaves Baku largely in control of its territory.

Under the truce deal, Russia and Turkey agreed to establish a joint center in Karabakh and deploy peacekeeping forces to monitor the ceasefire in the mountainous region.

Russia has sent some 2,000 peacekeepers as well as armored personnel carriers and other military equipment to monitor the truce deal. 

Ankara also said earlier this week that preparations for its troops to be dispatched to Azerbaijan had been completed. 

The center, according to the agreement, is located on Azerbaijani territory. 

France along with Russia and the United States co-chairs the Minsk Group, which has led talks purportedly seeking a solution to the conflict for decades but has failed to achieve anything.

The French government's unreserved support for Armenia has riled Azerbaijan which says Paris does not deserve a mediation role in the conflict.

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