Azerbaijan blacklists French lawmakers for Karabakh visit
Azerbaijan said Friday it was adding seven members of a French parliamentary delegation to a blacklist of people banned from the country for visiting its breakaway Nagorny Karabakh region.
Azerbaijan has recently stepped up efforts to prevent foreigners from visiting Nagorny Karabakh and last month had declared five Russian lawmakers persona non grata for visiting the region.
"We have confirmed that they visited the occupied territories and as a result have included their names on the list of people whose presence in Azerbaijan is undesirable," foreign ministry spokesman Elkhan Polukhov told AFP.
He said French National Assembly members Arlette Grosskost, Pascale Crozon, Richard Mallie, Rene Rouquet, Francois Rochebloine and Michel Diefenbacher would be added to the blacklist after visiting Karabakh this week.
Also banned was Jean-Pierre Delannoy, the secretary of the assembly's France-Armenia Friendship Group.
"This policy of the Azerbaijani state concerns politicians of any rank from any country," Polukhov said.
"People holding certain positions or representing elected bodies must more seriously consider proposals to visit Azerbaijan's occupied territories."
Baku has repeatedly warned foreigners against travelling to the region, which is only accessible through Armenia, without permission from Azerbaijani authorities.
Backed by Yerevan, ethnic Armenian separatists in Karabakh broke from Baku's control in a war in the early 1990s that claimed an estimated 30,000 lives.
Internationally mediated negotiations have failed to resolve the dispute and tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia remain high.
© 2010 AFP