Armenia’s government has approved a bill drafted by opposition lawmakers that calls for Yerevan to recognize the independence of Azerbaijan’s breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The draft bill was sent to lawmakers on May 5 for debate.

In the past, the Armenian government has blocked previous proposals. But analysts say the government gave the green light this time mainly as a warning to Azerbaijan following a recent flare-up in fighting.

Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharian said the legislation would only be brought to a vote if Azerbaijan launched new attacks.

A parliamentary session to discuss the issue was called for May 10.

Azerbaijan condemned the Armenian initiative, which it said was aimed at scuttling international peace talks.

The Kremlin said on May 5 that it was monitoring the situation closely.

“We as before are counting on both sides of the conflict to avoid any steps that could destroy the rather fragile cease-fire and lead to an escalation of tensions in Karabakh,” presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Baku and Yerevan have been locked in a standoff over the breakaway region for more than two decades.

On April 2, Nagorno-Karabakh saw its worst violence since a shaky cease-fire was reached in 1994 between Azerbaijan and the Armenian-backed separatists.

About 75 soldiers from both sides were killed in April, along with several civilians.

A fresh Russian-brokered cease-fire deal went into effect on April 5 but has increasingly been violated since late April.

And there are fears of a possible escalation, with Turkey strongly backing Azerbaijan and Russia obliged to protect Armenia by a mutual security pact.

Armenia-backed separatists declared the region’s independence and seized the mainly ethnic-Armenian-populated region during a war in the late 1980s and early ’90s that killed about 30,000 people.

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But Nagorno-Karabakh’s independence has never been recognized by any country.

Peace talks under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have dragged on for two decades without producing any tangible results.


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