French Senate pushes Paris to recognize Nagorno-Karabakh

PARIS (AP) — The French Senate voted Wednesday to urge the government to recognize the disputed Caucasus region of Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent republic.

The symbolic resolution does not mean the French government will recognize a sovereign Nagorno-Karabakh, but sends a message of support to France’s large Armenian community. No country recognizes the region, which Armenia and Azerbaijan have been at odds over for decades, as independent.

The vote comes as the French government, French towns and aid groups have stepped up aid efforts in recent days for people fleeing Nagorno-Karabakh. A French cargo flight arrived Monday in the Armenian capital Yerevan with medical and other assistance, and another flight is scheduled for Friday.

Nagorno-Karabakh lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a separatist war there ended in 1994. That war left Nagorno-Karabakh itself and substantial surrounding territory in Armenian hands.

Fighting broke out again in September that killed hundreds and possibly thousands of people, until a truce two weeks ago brokered by Russia. The agreement stipulated that Armenia hand over control to Azerbaijan of some areas it holds outside Nagorno-Karabakh’s borders. The latest land handover occurred Wednesday.

The French resolution calls on the government to “recognize the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and use this recognition as an instrument of negotiations for the establishment of a sustainable peace.” It also urges the government to pursue a tougher European response toward Turkey, which has supported Azerbaijan in the conflict, and an international war crimes investigation.

Azerbaijan has repeatedly criticized France for supporting Armenia in the dispute.

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