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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Saakyan Takes Vote in Karabakh

APBako Saakyan
STEPANAKERT, Azerbaijan -- Azerbaijan's breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh elected a local security chief as its new leader Friday, but the change was unlikely to bring new policies or unlock a 20-year conflict over the region.

Bako Saakyan, who served in the administration of outgoing separatist President Arkady Gukasyan and was endorsed by his boss to replace him, won with 85 percent in Thursday's vote, preliminary results showed.

Azerbaijan -- which lost a war for control of the mountainous territory in the 1990s -- called the vote illegal, while the European Union said Thursday that it did not recognize the election as legitimate.

Nagorno-Karabakh, populated mainly by ethnic Armenians, is legally part of mainly Muslim Azerbaijan.

It has declared itself an independent state but has not been recognized by any country. Efforts to negotiate a settlement with Azerbaijan have made no substantial progress.

"The EU underlines that it does not recognize the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh. Neither does it recognize the legitimacy of these 'presidential elections,'" Portugal, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said in a statement.