The United Nations' top court ordered Azerbaijan and Armenia on Tuesday to refrain from aggravating the conflict and prevent discrimination against each other's citizens following last year's Nagorno-Karabakh crisis.
The orders came at an early stage of a pair of cases Armenia and Azerbaijan filed at the International Court of Justice that are linked to last year’s war. In September, the rivals each asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) located in the Peace Palace of The Hague to take steps against the other, pending the resolution of a full case that will take years.
The judges first ordered Azerbaijan to protect all the prisoners it captured during the war, to prevent incitement of racial hatred against Armenians and to punish vandalism of Armenian cultural heritage. The court then ordered Armenia to “prevent the incitement and promotion of racial hatred" targeting Azerbaijanis.
The court also ordered both sides to “refrain from any action which might aggravate or extend the dispute before the court or make it more difficult to resolve.”
Both cases stem from simmering tensions over Armenian-occupied Nagorno-Karabakh that boiled over into a 2020 armed conflict that more than 6,600 people dead.
Relations between the former Soviet republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia have been tense since 1991, when the Armenian military occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory recognized as part of Azerbaijan, and seven adjacent regions.
Before the Second Karabakh War, about 20% of Azerbaijan's territory – including Nagorno-Karabakh and neighboring regions – had been under Armenian occupation for nearly three decades.
New clashes erupted on Sept. 27, and the Armenian military continued its attacks on civilian and Azerbaijani forces for 44 days, even violating three humanitarian cease-fire agreements.
During the 44-day conflict, Azerbaijan liberated several cities and 300 settlements and villages that were illegally occupied by Armenia for almost 30 years.
The fighting ended with a Russian-brokered agreement on Nov. 10, 2020, with the cease-fire seen as a victory for Azerbaijan and a defeat for Armenia.
Two months later, the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a pact to develop economic ties and infrastructure to benefit the entire region. It also included the establishment of a trilateral working group on Nagorno-Karabakh.
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