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Azerbaijan summons ambassador over France's Nagorno-Karabakh vote

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By Alice Tidey  with AP
People walk past a poster reading "Karabakh is Azerbaijan" in Ganja, Azerbaijan's second largest city, near the border with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020.
People walk past a poster reading "Karabakh is Azerbaijan" in Ganja, Azerbaijan's second largest city, near the border with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Emrah Gurel

Azerbaijan's foreign ministry summoned France's ambassador to the country on Thursday to protest against a vote by French lawmakers to recognise the region of Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent republic.

"On November 26, 2020, French Ambassador to Azerbaijan Zakari Gross was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs," the country's foreign ministry said in a statement.

"During the meeting, a note of protest from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan was represented to the Ambassador in connection with the adoption of the resolution of 'Necessity of recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic' by the French Senate on November 25 of this year.

"The firm protest of Azerbaijan on the resolution, which contradicts the norms and principles of international law, the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act and the relevant UN Security Council resolutions of 1993 were brought to the attention of the French ambassador," it added.

Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a bloody war over Nagorno-Karabakh in the early 1990s which ended in a truce. Sporadic episodes of violence have since taken place.

The mountainous region lies in Azerbaijan but has been controlled by ethnic Armenians backed by Armenia.

Violence erupted again between the two former Soviet states on September 27 with both sides blaming each other for the latest flare-up — the worst in decades.

Hundreds of people were killed and tens of thousands displaced.

It ended with a Russian-brokered a truce on November 9 in which Armenia agreed to relinquish up to 20 per cent of the territory captured from the other sides in recent skirmishes and cede control of several areas outside the region held by Armenian forces.

The resolution adopted by France's upper house on Wednesday is symbolic and not legally-binding, meaning Paris does not have to recognise the region as an independent country but is a strong show of support to the Armenian community in France.

Nevertheless, the move elicited outrage in Azerbaijan, which has previously criticised France for taking a "pro-Armenian" stand in the dispute.

Several dozen people protested in front of the French embassy in the capital, Baku, on Thursday, chanting "France, be fair!". Azerbaijan's foreign ministry said in a statement late on Wednesday that the document can only be seen "as a provocation" and stressed that it "has no legal force".

The Armenian Foreign Ministry has however welcomed the move as "a crucial step towards recognition of right and self-determination".