UN Calls for Armenian Pullout From Karabakh

UNITED NATIONS -- The UN General Assembly approved a resolution Friday demanding that ethnic Armenian forces immediately withdraw from the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan, but the vote reflected widespread unease at UN interference in efforts to resolve the conflict.

Only 39 of the UN's 192 member states approved the resolution, which was sponsored by Azerbaijan, while seven voted "no" and 100 abstained.

Nagorno-Karabakh has been under control of ethnic Armenian forces since a six-year conflict that erupted in the waning days of the Soviet Union. Some 30,000 people were killed and about 1 million were driven from their homes before a cease-fire was reached in 1994.

Azerbaijan and Armenia remain locked in a dispute over the future of Nagorno-Karabakh, despite more than a decade of efforts by foreign mediators led by the U.S., Russia and France to help reach a resolution. Persistent gunfire along the Azerbaijan-Armenian border and in the regions near Nagorno-Karabakh has raised fears of a new war.

The United States, Russia and France voted against the resolution, stressing the importance of continued mediation efforts, and were joined by Armenia, Angola, India and Vanuatu.

The resolution, which is not legally binding, also reaffirms Azerbaijan's territorial integrity, the right of those driven from their homes to return, and support for the international mediation efforts. It urges UN members and international and regional organizations to help resolve the conflict.

Azerbaijan's UN ambassador, Agshin Mehdiyev, accused Armenia of trying "to solidify the results of aggression and ethnic cleansing." He cited a "dangerous" cease-fire violation by Armenian forces on March 5 that led to 5 Azeri casualties and 27 Armenian casualties.

Mehdiyev also expressed grave concern and alarm at "the lack of clear proposals" from the United States, Russia and France to solve the "vital issues of liberation of all the occupied territories and return of the Azeri population to Nagorno-Karabakh."

Armenia's UN ambassador, Armen Martirosyan, in urging UN members to vote against the resolution, said Azerbaijan never wanted to facilitate discussion but instead wanted "to get a piece of paper where their wishful, unrealistic, and unattainable outcomes are listed."

Despite Azerbaijan's push for a UN resolution, Martirosyan said, negotiations led by the foreign mediators "are moving forward," and there is a draft document addressing the fundamental issues, "security foremost among them."

He said Azerbaijan "risks sabotaging this process" by presenting a draft demanding the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of armed forces from Nagorno-Karabakh, which Martirosyan said would endanger the Armenian minority and leave them unprotected.