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09/12/2016

France hosts Armenia-Azerbaijan summit over Nagorno-Karabakh

Global Europe

France hosts Armenia-Azerbaijan summit over Nagorno-Karabakh

The last meeting of Aliyev [L] and Sargsyan over Karabakh was hosted by France in October 2014. [French Presidency]

Armenian and Azeri leaders have agreed to pursue talks over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region after resuming direct contacts at a meeting in Paris Monday (27 October), the French government said.

“Status quo is not sustainable,” the office of French President François Hollande said after he hosted talks between Azerbaijan’s Ilham Aliyev and Armenia’s Serzh Sargsyan, following an increase in clashes over the region during the summer.

The two leaders agreed to exchange information about people who have gone missing in the fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh, Hollande’s office said.

Fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh first erupted in 1991, when the Soviet Union broke up. A ceasefire was called in 1994 after more than 30,000 people were killed in the fighting. The two sides have regularly traded accusations of further violence around the region and along the Azeri-Armenian border.

The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan “have agreed to continue the dialogue, in particular with a new meeting in September 2015 in the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in New York,” Hollande’s office reported.

Energy-producing Azerbaijan, host to oil majors including BP, Chevron and Exxon Mobil, frequently threatens to take Nagorno-Karabakh back by force and is spending heavily on its armed forces.

Russia, like France, is one of the sponsors of international efforts to find a solution to the conflict. In August, Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted a meeting between the two heads of state, after more than a dozen people were killed in clashes.

The meeting had given him a chance to play a peacekeeping role in the former Soviet Union at a time when the West is accusing Moscow of backing pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.

Background

Nagorno-Karabakh is one of the so-called frozen conflicts in the post-Soviet space. It is a landlocked region in the Southern Caucasus, de jure on the territory of Azerbaijan, but de facto governed by the Armenian-backed breakaway government of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. 

An armed conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan took place between 1988 and 1994 over Nagorno-Karabakh. A Russian-brokered cease-fire was signed in May 1994.

In August 2008, the US, France and Russia began to negotiate a full settlement of the conflict, proposing a referendum on the status of the territory. The effort culminated in the signature in Moscow by Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan and his Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliyev of an agreement to hold talks on a political settlement.