EU parliament accuses Baku of ‘ethnic cleansing’ against Armenians in Karabakh

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EU lawmakers on Thursday accused Azerbaijan of carrying out “ethnic cleansing” against the Armenian residents of Nagorno-Karabakh, and urged the bloc to impose sanctions on Baku.

Almost all of the 120,000-strong ethnic Armenia population has fled the breakaway region since Azerbaijan seized it back in a lightning offensive last month.

The European Parliament approved a resolution saying it “considers that the current situation amounts to ethnic cleansing and strongly condemns threats and violence committed by Azerbaijani troops.”

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The lawmakers called on the EU’s 27 member states to “to adopt targeted sanctions against individuals in the Azerbaijani government” over the assault and alleged human rights breaches in Nagorno-Karabakh.

They also urged the bloc “to reduce the EU dependency toward gas exports from Azerbaijan” and demanded Brussels review its relations with the country.

The resolution - approved by 491 legislators to nine - does not compel the EU to act.

But it will infuriate Baku, which has fiercely denied allegations of ethnic cleansing and publicly called on ethnic Armenians to remain and “reintegrate” into Azerbaijan.

European diplomats say that sanctions against Azerbaijan are not on the table at the moment and action would likely only be taken if the situation worsens further.

The EU has stepped up its imports of natural gas from Azerbaijan as the bloc has turned away from Russia since Moscow’s all-out invasion of Ukraine.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen inked a “strategic partnership” deal with Baku last year aimed at more than doubling gas imports by 2027.

After a 24-hour offensive by Azerbaijani forces in September the self-proclaimed republic of Nagorno-Karabakh announced that it would be dissolved on 1 January 2024.

Since the fall of the Russian Empire, this mountainous region, populated mainly by Armenians who regard it as part of their ancestral land, has been part of Azerbaijan.

It unilaterally proclaimed its independence with the support of Armenia when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

Nagorno-Karabakh separatists resisted Baku with the support of Yerevan for three decades, notably during the first Karabakh war from 1988 to 1994 and the second in 2020.

The international community never recognized the self-proclaimed republic.

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