Azeri lawmakers call for France to lose Karabakh mediation role over senate resolution


FILE PHOTO: A general view shows Hadrut town, which recently came under the control of Azerbaijan's troops following a military conflict against ethnic Armenian forces and a further signing of a ceasefire deal, in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, November 25, 2020. REUTERS/Aziz Karimov

BAKU (Reuters) - Azerbaijan's parliament called on Thursday for France to be stripped of its mediation role in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to punish the French Senate for adopting a resolution backing the region's independence.

The French resolution adopted on Nov. 25 followed a Russia-brokered ceasefire ending weeks of fighting in the mountain enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, part of Azerbaijan mainly populated by ethnic Armenians. The ceasefire has been hailed as a victory in Azerbaijan, which recovered control of large swathes of territory held by Armenians since the early 1990s.

The Azeri parliament urged its government to review ties with Paris and to appeal to the Organization for Security and Co-operation 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. The United States and Russia are the other co-chairs.

The Azeri foreign ministry said the French senate resolution, which has no legal force, had 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.

France's foreign minister on Wednesday dismissed the senate resolution, saying it would contradict France's neutral position and pointing out that even Armenia itself had not recognised Nagorno-Karabakh.

France's population includes 400,000-600,000 people of Armenian origin. President Emmanuel Macron has been careful not to back a side in the conflict, but has faced criticism at home that he did not do enough to help Yerevan.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan praised the resolution, describing it as a vital first step towards recognising the right of the region's people to self-determination.

(Reporting by Nailia Bagirova in Baku, Nvard Hovhannisyan in Yerevan and John Irish in Paris; Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Peter Graff)

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