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Armenian, Azerbaijani Religious Leaders Back Nagorno-Karabakh Settlement


Head of Armenian church on first visit to Muslim Azerbaijan since ethnic Armenians seized control of Nagorno-Karabakh in early 1990s

The head of the Armenian church has joined with the senior Muslim cleric in Azerbaijan in pledging to support envoys trying to resolve the decades-long conflict over a breakaway Armenian enclave inside Azerbaijan.

Catholicos Karekin II the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, joined in the pledge during a visit Monday to Baku. There, he met with Allahshukur Pashazade, the head of the Muslim Board of the Caucasus, for talks also attended by Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill.

The trio issued a joint statement promising support for mediators in negotiations to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In the statement, Patriarch Kirill said he hoped the meeting will contribute to reconciliation and reduce tensions in the enclave.

Monday's visit is the first by the head of the Armenian church to Muslim Azerbaijan since ethnic Armenians, backed by the Yerevan government, seized control of Nagorno-Karabakh in the early 1990s.

The conflict claimed 35,000 lives and left more than 1 million others homeless.

Major fighting ended after a 1994 cease-fire, but both sides continue to accuse the other of violating the pact.

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