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    Five Russian lawmakers declared personae non gratae for observing Karabakh polls

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    The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry has declared five members of Russia's lower house personae non gratae for observing parliamentary elections in the disputed area of Nagorny Karabakh, a spokesman for the ministry said on Wednesday.

    The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry has declared five members of Russia's lower house personae non gratae for observing parliamentary elections in the disputed area of Nagorny Karabakh, a spokesman for the ministry said on Wednesday.

    "The decision is final. This list may be extended," Elkhan Pulukhov said.

    However, he conceded, the measure might be reviewed if the five lawmakers admit that their involvement in monitoring the elections was "deliberate malice."

    The predominantly ethnic Armenian region, at the center of a dispute between the former Soviet republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia since the late 1980s, elected its 33-seat parliament on May 23 with a voter turnout of almost 68%.

    Konstantin Zatulin, one of those declared persona non grata, said the decision was a "demonstrative measure."

    "I was an observer during presidential and parliamentary elections in Nagorny Karabakh more than once," the lawmaker said, adding it was "surprising" that his decision to take part in monitoring the polls sparked such a reaction "for the first time."

    The other members from the State Duma considered persona non grata in Azerbaijan are Igor Chernyshenko, Kirill Cherkasov, Tatyana Volozhinskaya, and Maxim Mishchenko.

    Azerbaijani officials have called the elections in Nagorny Karabakh "illegal," saying they could seriously harm Armenian-Azerbaijani peace efforts.

    The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorny Karabakh first erupted in 1988, when the region claimed independence from Azerbaijan to join Armenia.

    Over 30,000 people are estimated to have died on both sides between 1988 and 1994, when a ceasefire was agreed. Nagorny Karabakh has remained in Armenian control and tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia have persisted.

    The conflict has been mediated by the OSCE Minsk Group that comprises the United States, Russia and France.

    BAKU, May 26 (RIA Novosti) 

     

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