Preliminary hearings opened in a case in which Armenia is...

Preliminary hearings opened in a case in which Armenia is asking judges at the United Nations' top court to order Azerbaijan to protect the rights of ethnic Armenians from the Nagorno-Karabakh region that was reclaimed last month by Azerbaijan, at the International Court of Justice, or World Court, in The Hague, Netherlands, Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023. Lawyers for Azerbaijan on Monday urged the top United Nations court to throw out a case filed by Armenia linked to the long-running dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, arguing that judges do not have jurisdiction. Credit: AP/Peter Dejong

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Lawyers for Azerbaijan on Monday urged the top United Nations court to throw out a case filed by Armenia linked to the long-running dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, arguing that judges do not have jurisdiction.

Armenia filed the case at the International Court of Justice in 2021, accusing Azerbaijan of a “state-sponsored policy of Armenian hatred” that has led to “systemic discrimination, mass killings, torture and other abuse.”

The legal dispute stems from long-standing tensions that erupted into a 2020 war over Nagorno-Karabakh that left more than 6,600 people dead. The region is within Azerbaijan, but had been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since the end of a separatist war in 1994.

Armenia's case is based on an international convention on stamping out racial discrimination, which has a clause allowing disputes to be resolved by the world court if bilateral negotiations fail to broker a settlement.

However, Azerbaijani deputy Foreign Minister Elnur Mammadov told judges Monday that Armenia could not bring the dispute to the court in The Hague, arguing that the two countries had not first engaged in serious negotiations.

“Armenia had its sights firmly set on commencing these proceedings before the court and using the effect of these proceedings to wage a public media campaign against Azerbaijan,” Mammadov said.

International law professor Stefan Talmon, representing Azerbaijan, added that Armenia “never gave negotiations a chance.”

Azerbaijani servicemen guard the Lachin checkpoint on the in Azerbaijan,...

Azerbaijani servicemen guard the Lachin checkpoint on the in Azerbaijan, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023. Lawyers for Azerbaijan on Monday urged the top United Nations court to throw out a case filed by Armenia linked to the long-running dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, arguing that judges do not have jurisdiction. Credit: AP/Aziz Karimov

He said that “with no negotiations and no genuine attempt at negotiations, that basically is the end of Armenia’s application” to the court.

Azerbaijan also argued that most allegations in Armenia's case fall outside the scope of the discrimination convention, meaning the court did not have jurisdiction.

Armenia is scheduled to respond Tuesday to Azerbaijan's arguments.

Azerbaijan has also brought a case against Armenia at the world court alleging breaches of the same convention. Objections filed by Armenia to the Azerbaijani case will be heard later this month.

Ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh and European Union observers drive their...

Ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh and European Union observers drive their cars past a check point on the road from Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia's Goris in Syunik region, Armenia, Friday, Sept. 29, 2023. Lawyers for Azerbaijan on Monday urged the top United Nations court to throw out a case filed by Armenia linked to the long-running dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, arguing that judges do not have jurisdiction. Credit: AP/Vasily Krestyaninov

The 2020 conflict ended with a Russia-brokered ceasefire agreement that granted Azerbaijan control over parts of Nagorno-Karabakh as well as some adjacent territories.

Azerbaijan waged a lightning military campaign in Nagorno-Karabakh last year that resulted in the vast majority of the region's 120,000 residents fleeing.

In December, the two sides agreed to begin negotiations on a peace treaty. However, many residents of Armenia’s border regions have resisted the demarcation effort, seeing it as Azerbaijan encroaching on areas they consider their own.

Armenia’s prime minister said last month that the Caucasus nation needs to define its border with Azerbaijan quickly to avoid a new round of hostilities.

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