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Azerbaijan urges the highest UN court to dismiss the Armenian case on grounds of racial discrimination

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Lawyers for Azerbaijan urged the United Nations top court Monday to dismiss a case brought by Armenia over the long-running dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, arguing that judges cannot have jurisdiction.

Armenia filed the case at the International Court of Justice in 2021, accusing Azerbaijan of a “state-sponsored policy of Armenian hatred” that has led to “systemic discrimination, mass killings, torture and other abuses.”

The legal dispute stems from longstanding tensions that erupted in a 2020 war over Nagorno-Karabakh that left more than 6,600 people dead. The region is in Azerbaijan, but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since the end of a separatist war in 1994.

Armenia’s case is based on an international treaty on the elimination of racial discrimination, which includes a clause allowing disputes to be settled by the world court if bilateral negotiations do not lead to a solution.

However, Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Elnur Mammadov told the judges on Monday that Armenia could not take the dispute to the court in The Hague, arguing that the two countries had not first conducted serious negotiations.

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“Armenia had set its sights on starting these proceedings in court and using the effect of these proceedings to conduct a public media campaign against Azerbaijan,” Mammadov said.

International law professor Stefan Talmon, representing Azerbaijan, added that Armenia “never gave the negotiations a chance.”

He said that “without negotiations and without any real attempt at negotiations, this is effectively the end of Armenia’s application to the court.”

Azerbaijan also argued that most of the allegations in the Armenian case fell outside the scope of the discrimination treaty, meaning the court had no jurisdiction.

Armenia will respond to Azerbaijan’s arguments on Tuesday.

Azerbaijan has also filed a case against Armenia in the World Court for violating the same treaty. Armenia’s objections to the Azerbaijani case will be heard later this month.

The 2020 conflict ended with a Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement that granted Azerbaijan control over parts of Nagorno-Karabakh and some adjacent areas.

Azerbaijan waged a meteoric military campaign in Nagorno-Karabakh last year, causing the vast majority of the region’s 120,000 residents to flee.

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In December, the two sides agreed to begin negotiations on a peace treaty. However, many residents of Armenia’s border regions have opposed the demarcation effort, seeing it as Azerbaijan’s encroachment on areas they consider theirs.

Armenia’s prime minister said last month that the Caucasus country must quickly define its border with Azerbaijan to avoid a new round of hostilities.

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