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Baku, Yerevan Trade Accusations After Pashinian Visits Nagorno-Karabakh

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian speaks during the rally in Stepanakert on August 5.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian speaks during the rally in Stepanakert on August 5.

A recent visit by Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian to Azerbaijan's breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh -- and the comments he made there -- have triggered a fresh war of words between Yerevan and Baku.

In an August 7 statement, Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry accused Pashinian of "provoking" tensions in the region with his "illegal" visit earlier this week.

In an hour-long speech before thousands of people gathered on August 5 in Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, Pashinian said the region was "Armenian, and that's that."

He also led the crowd in chanting for the unification of Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia.

In a first statement published the following day, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry called Pashinian's speech "aggressive" and a "major blow" to internationally mediated negotiations to settle the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Yerevan responded to that statement by saying the Azerbaijani authorities misunderstood the "context and content" of Pashinian's speech, which it said aimed at promoting a "pan-Armenian agenda of unity, solidarity, development, and prosperity" of Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and the Armenian diaspora."

The Armenian Foreign Ministry also accused Baku of being "unable to maintain norms of diplomatic ethics," launching "personalized attacks," and "creating threats to the security and existence of the people" of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Mainly Armenian-populated Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence from Azerbaijan amid a 1988-94 war that claimed an estimated 30,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

Since 1994, it 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 recognized by any country.

Negotiations involving the OSCE's so-called Minsk Group helped forge a cease-fire in the region, which is not always honored, but have failed to produce a lasting settlement of the conflict. The Minsk Group is co-chaired by France, Russia, and the United States.

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