WASHINGTON, December 6 (RIA Novosti) – A small California town has triggered a diplomatic row over a breakaway enclave thousands of miles away in the Caucasus.
The city council of Highland voted to recognize the independence of the breakaway republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is at the center of a territorial dispute between Armenia and neighboring Azerbaijan.
The council also voted in November to establish a sister city relationship with the city of Berdzor in the territory.
The AzerNews site reported Friday that Azerbaijan’s Consulate General in Los Angeles sent a letter of protest to Highland City Council.
The strongly worded letter called on the council to rescind the decisions “which not only violate the US Constitution … but also strongly contradict the spirit of strong and successful partnership between Azerbaijan and the United States."
The US does not recognize Nagorno-Karbakah as an independent state, nor does any other member of the United Nations. The US is part of the OSCE’s three-nation Minsk Group with Russia and France, which has been working to find a solution to the conflict for two decades.
The Nagorno-Karabakh dispute flared up in 1988, when the region’s predominantly ethnic Armenian population began large-scale protests against Azerbaijani rule, seeking first to become part of Armenia and later declaring independence.
The region descended into war as the Soviet Union collapsed. An estimated 1 million people were made refugees and up to 30,000 died before a ceasefire was established in 1994.
By the time fighting ended, ethnic Armenian forces, supported by Armenia, had established control over the whole of Nagorno-Karabakh and occupied several surrounding regions in Azerbaijan.
Diplomatic efforts have failed to establish a final peace agreement between the two sides and the dispute continues as an unstable “frozen conflict.” Armenia insists on international recognition of Nagorno-Karabah’s right to self-determination, while Azerbaijan demands support for its territorial integrity.
Highland has a population of 54,154 according to US Census figures and is the second California municipality to recognize the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh this year.
The Board of Supervisors of Fresno County passed a similar resolution in April, and called upon the California Legislature to grant Nagorno-Karabakh official recognition. California has a large Armenian diaspora population.