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New Armenia PM ‘ready for talks with Baku on Karabakh’

Muslim Times(Web Desk) – Armenia’s newly elected Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has signaled continuity in policy on the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, expressing his readiness for more talks with Azerbaijan but seeks the participation of separatists in the process.

Azerbaijan and Armenia are technically at war over Nagorno-Karabakh, an Azerbaijani territory that was seized by Armenian separatists in a bloody war in the 1990s.

Some 30,000 people were killed in the conflict, which ended with a fragile truce in 1994. The two sides have yet to reach a permanent peace agreement on the issue as clashes have continued over the years, claiming more lives from both sides.

Azerbaijan has repeatedly warned that it would take back Karabakh by force, but Armenia, which supports the rebels, says it would crush any military intervention by Baku.

“We are ready to continue peaceful talks,” Pashinyan said at a press conference in Karabakh’s capital, Stepanakert, on Wednesday after meeting its leader Bako Sahakyan.

The new premier underlined the significance of Karabakh for Yerevan by travelling to the region just hours after being elected prime minister by Armenia’s parliament on Tuesday.

Pashinyan was chosen as the country’s new prime minister after weeks of mass protests, spearheaded by him, against corruption and cronyism in the ex-Soviet republic.

“I’m ready to hold talks with Azerbaijan’s president on behalf of Armenia, but the leadership of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) should hold talks on behalf of Artsakh,” he said.

Pashinyan stressed that “mutual concessions would be possible only after recognition of the right of the Nagorno-Karabakh people to self-determination.”

Azerbaijan has yet to comment, but the country had opposed a similar call by Armenia’s ex-president Serzh Sarksyan to include the separatists in the negotiations.

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