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Azerbaijan rejects French remarks on proposal for border checkpoint on key road

Azerbaijan on Monday rejected “completely unfounded” criticism by France of its establishment of a border checkpoint at the beginning of a road between the cities of Lachin and Khankendi in Karabakh, a Southern Caucasus region that Baku liberated from nearly three decades of Armenian occupation.

“As always, Azerbaijan guarantees the safety of citizens, vehicles and cargo moving on the Lachin-Khankendi road within the framework of its obligations and will continue to take appropriate measures in this direction,” Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman Aykhan Hajizada said in a statement.

French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre said late on Sunday that the checkpoint went against a cease-fire agreement that ended a 2020 war that saw Azerbaijan liberate several cities, villages, and settlements from nearly three decades of Armenian occupation.

Relations between the two former Soviet republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan have been tense since 1991, when the Armenian military occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, and seven adjacent regions.

The Russian-brokered peace agreement is celebrated as a triumph in Azerbaijan that came after 44 days of clashes in the fall of 2020.

“There is no basis for the claim that this step is contrary to the Trilateral Statement, any other international document or court decision,” Hajizada said in the statement, published by the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, underlining that it was Baku’s “sovereign and legitimate right” to establish a border checkpoint on its own territory.

“In return for Azerbaijan’s efforts to ensure peace, stability and development in the region, to normalize relations with Armenia on the basis of respect for international law principles such as territorial integrity and sovereignty, the French side should not create conditions for attempts to obstruct the process by expressing such a unilateral position,” Hajizada added.

Legendre had said that France “regrets Azerbaijan’s establishment of a checkpoint at the entrance to the new Lachin Corridor road,” which it said “breaches the commitments made under the ceasefire agreements and jeopardizes the negotiation process.”

Earlier in the day, Azerbaijan had announced that it established the border control mechanism at the starting point of the Lachin road in light of “threats and provocations” by Armenia.

Baku accuses Yerevan of using the Lachin-Khankendi road, which connects Armenia and the Karabakh region, to illegally transport military arms and equipment to the region, prompting calls from Azerbaijan to establish a border crossing and control point at its end.

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