Azerbaijan, Armenia to start process for peace talks: EU’s Michel

Untold India April 7, 2022

ISTANBUL : Azerbaijan and Armenia have decided to launch a “concrete process” for peace talks, European Council President Charles Michel said Wednesday after a meeting with the two countries’ leaders in Brussels.
Speaking to reporters following the meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Charles Michel said they made “a lot of progress.”
“It means that we have decided all together to launch a concrete process for peace talks to prepare a possible peace treaty and to address all the necessary elements for such a treaty,” he said.
The leaders also agreed to set up a joint committee and to maintain a “channel of communication,” Michel said after the five-hour meeting.
“We are working very hard. We are making progress. I don’t underestimate the challenges, the difficulties on both sides, but I feel there’s a common will to make progress,” he stressed.
Michel later released a statement about the outcome of the three-way meeting, in which he reiterated the European Union’s commitment to “deepen its cooperation with Armenia and Azerbaijan” to overcome tensions in the South Caucasus and for a “secure, stable, peaceful and prosperous” region.
According to Michel, Aliyev and Pashinyan both stated their desire to “move rapidly towards a peace agreement between their countries.”
“To this end, it was agreed to instruct the ministers of foreign affairs to work on the preparation of a future peace treaty which would address all necessary issues,” the statement added.
They also agreed to convene a Joint Border Commission by the end of April, the statement noted.
“The mandate of the Joint Border Commission will be to delimit the bilateral border between Armenia and Azerbaijan and ensure a stable security situation along, and in the vicinity of, the borderline,” it added.
Last December, around a year after the two countries ended a 44-day war over Nagorno-Karabakh, Michel met separately with both leaders and then hosted them both at a dinner in Brussels.
Relations between the two former Soviet countries have been tense since 1991, when the Armenian military occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Upper Karabakh, a territory internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, and seven adjacent regions.
New clashes erupted in September 2020, and a 44-day conflict saw Azerbaijan liberate several cities and over 300 settlements and villages that were occupied by Armenia for almost 30 years.
A tripartite agreement was brokered by Russia to bring an end to the war in November 2020.

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US lawmaker urges Biden to act on anti-Muslim discrimination in India

Untold India April 7, 2022

WASHINGTON : US congresswoman Ilhan Omar pressed one of President Joe Biden’s most senior diplomats on Wednesday on US support for India given what she said is a long-standing campaign against the country’s Muslim minority.
Omar, who is Muslim, directly asked Wendy Sherman, Biden’s deputy secretary of state, how US support for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is “promoting a free and open region,” and lambasted what she characterized as a reluctance to openly criticize his government.
“How much does the Modi administration have to criminalize the act of being Muslim in India for us to say something? What will it take for us to outwardly criticize the action that the Modi administration is taking against its Muslim minorities?” she asked.
Sherman said she agrees that the administration must stand up “for every religion, every ethnicity, every race, every quality of diversity in this world.”
Omar quickly retorted: “I do hope we make a practice of standing up not just to our adversaries, but to our allies as well.”
“Absolutely,” said Sherman, who also noted the US has raised concerns about India’s human rights record directly with New Delhi officials.
Indian Muslims have witnessed a deterioration of the right to practice their faith under the rule of Modi and his right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), according to multiple international rights groups.
Human Rights Watch reported in 2021 that the BJP’s prejudices​​​​​​​ have “infiltrated independent institutions, such as the police and the courts, empowering nationalist groups to threaten, harass, and attack religious minorities with impunity.”
It noted that Modi and the BJP have adopted laws and policies that “systematically discriminate” against Muslims.

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