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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 July 2007, 00:43 GMT 01:43 UK
Nagorno-Karabakh holds elections
By Matthew Collin
BBC News, Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh

Bako Sahakian poster
Bako Sahakian is the leading presidential contender
People in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh are voting in presidential elections, which they hope will further their aim of independence.

But Nagorno-Karabakh lies within Azerbaijan, which has condemned the polls as illegal.

Azeri and Armenian forces fought a bitter war over the territory in the 1990s, which left some 30,000 people dead.

No country recognises the independence of the breakaway region.

Nagorno-Karabakh wants to prove it could become an independent, democratic state.

But this tiny, mountainous region is still the subject of a bitter dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan, more than a decade after the ceasefire. Armenian forces won the war and now control Nagorno-Karabakh, after the Azeri population fled and years of negotiations have failed to deliver a peace deal.

Unrecognized poll

One of the candidates for president, Bako Sahakian, says the election will demonstrate the democratic progress Nagorno-Karabakh has made.

Nagorno-Karabakh map

"It is the most civilised way towards building democracy and civil society. It is the best and the most progressive way to build a state. We will try to do everything possible to get the international community to recognise Nagorno-Karabakh.", Bako Sahakian says.

But Azerbaijan says the elections are being held by a separatist regime which was established by ethnic cleansing.

The Azeri foreign ministry spokesman, Khazar Ibrahim, says they are effectively meaningless.

"These are so-called elections conducted by the illegal regime which has basically occupied this region of Azerbaijan. These so-called elections have no legal effect because they contradict the norms and principles of international law," he said.

While Azerbaijan says Nagorno-Karabakh must not be allowed to break away. Armenia insists the region has the right to choose its own destiny.

The results of these elections are unlikely to bring a peaceful solution any closer.

Regions and territories: Nagorno-Karabakh
17 Jul 07 |  Country profiles

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