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Armenia Warns Azerbaijan Over New UN Resolution

YEREVAN -- Armenia's Foreign Ministry has warned Azerbaijan against trying to push through the United Nations General Assembly a fresh resolution that accuses Yerevan of occupying Azerbaijani lands and thereby hampering a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

The draft resolution, which the General Assembly is expected to discuss on September 9, upholds the right of Azerbaijanis "expelled" from Karabakh and the Armenian-controlled territories surrounding it to return to their homes. It also urges the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to send a fact-finding mission to the conflict zone to investigate the conflict parties' compliance with "international humanitarian law."

Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Tigran Balayan told RFE/RL that the document, if adopted, would cause "serious damage" to international efforts to end the Karabakh dispute. Armenian diplomats are now trying to prevent its passage, Balayan said, adding that Yerevan continues to believe that no international bodies except the OSCE Minsk Group should be involved in the search for a solution to the conflict.

"There is no way it won't pass," predicted Aleksandr Arzumanian, an opposition leader who headed the Armenian mission at the UN in the early 1990s. "The General Assembly statutes are such that even if five countries vote for and all others abstain, a resolution is deemed adopted. In such cases, most countries usually abstain."

That is what happened in March 2008, when the General Assembly backed a similar Azerbaijani-drafted resolution. It referred to Karabakh as an internationally recognized part of Azerbaijan and demanded the "immediate, complete, and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian forces" from occupied Azerbaijani lands.

Only 39 UN member states, most of them affiliated with the Organization of the Islamic Conference, voted for it, while over 150 others abstained or voted against. The latter included the United States, Russia, and France, the three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group.

That resolution was touted as a "great diplomatic victory" by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. The Armenian government rejected it and accused Baku of seeking to derail the peace process.

Nagorno-Karabakh, populated mainly by ethnic Armenians, erupted in ethnic clashes beginning in the late 1980s, prompting a war that left some 30,000 dead. The territory, which declared independence in 1991, remains in dispute despite years of failed efforts by international mediators and an Armenian-Azerbaijani cease-fire has not prevented occasional military skirmishes.