Azerbaijan’s separatist region Nagorno-Karabakh elects a new leader

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Azerbaijan’s separatist Armenian-populated region of Nagorno-Karabakh on Saturday elected a new president as tensions spiraled between arch-rivals Azerbaijan and Armenia over the breakaway enclave.

With 22 votes to one, lawmakers in Nagorno-Karabakh’s parliament elected the head of the security council in the rebel government, Samvel Shahramanyan, 45, to succeed to the outgoing leader Arayik Harutyunyan who stepped down on September 1.

Azerbaijan called the election “yet another extremely provocative step” and “a clear violation of Azerbaijan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

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Baku’s ally Turkey said it “does not recognize this illegitimate election which constitutes violation of Azerbaijan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

“This step is a flagrant violation of international law including the UN Security Council resolutions and the OSCE principles,” the foreign ministry in Ankara said in a statement.

Popular frustration with Harutyunyan’s rule was growing amid lingering food shortages after Azerbaijan closed the sole road linking Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have traded accusations of cross-border attacks in recent months.

Armenia warned of the risk of a fresh conflict, saying Azerbaijan was massing troops on the countries’ shared border and near Nagorno-Karabakh.

Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry on Friday accused Armenia of violating “previous agreements and... resorting to various political, military and other provocations.”

Yerevan said it was “committed to the settlement of all outstanding issues with Azerbaijan purely through political and diplomatic means.”

Azerbaijan’s Armenian-populated enclave was at the center of two wars between the Caucasus neighbors.

Six weeks of fighting in autumn 2020 ended with a Russian-brokered ceasefire that saw Armenia ceded swathes of territories it had controlled for decades.

The two sides have been unable to reach a lasting peace settlement despite mediation efforts by the European Union, the United States and Russia.

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