Nagorno-Karabakh holds ‘elections’ despite international criticism and virus concerns

'Elections' are held in Nagorno-Karabakh [@AybanizIsm Twitter]

The authorities of the internationally unrecognised breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh are holding presidential and parliamentary elections amid international criticism and despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Nagorno-Karabakh is a region within Azerbaijan that was seized by Armenian-backed separatists who declared independence amid a 1988-1994 conflict that killed at least 30,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands.

Following a Russia-brokered fragile truce in 1994, the region has been under the control of ethnic-Armenian forces that Azerbaijan says include troops supplied by Armenia. The region’s claim to independence has not been recognised by any country.

The ethnic Azerbaijani population of Nagorno-Karabakh has been expelled from their homelands and lives as internationally displaced persons (IDPs) in Azerbaijan.

Russia, the United States, and France are the co-chairs of the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which acts as a mediator in resolving the crisis. The group has been struggling for years to mediate a solution to the situation.

In a sternly worded statement, the European Union reiterated on Tuesday (31 March) that it does not recognise the so-called elections and warned that the move could hamper the progress of international negotiations on resolving the conflict.

“In view of the so-called ‘presidential and parliamentary elections’ in Nagorno-Karabakh on 31 March 2020, the European Union reiterates that it does not recognise the constitutional and legal framework within which they are being held,” EU spokesperson Peter Stano said.

“This event cannot prejudice the determination of the future status of Nagorno-Karabakh or the outcome of the ongoing negotiation process.”

Stano also reiterated the EU’s “firm support to the OSCE Minsk Group and, in particular, to its Co-Chairs’ efforts to bring about progress beyond the status quo and substantive negotiations towards comprehensive and sustainable peace.”

Azerbaijan and its closest regional ally, Turkey, have both condemned the poll.

The election went ahead despite concerns over the coronavirus outbreak that prompted even some of the candidates to call for their postponement, RFE/RL reported.

As of 30 March, the region reported no coronavirus cases, saying that three people who had been isolated on suspicion of having the virus have tested negative for it.

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