Fresno County at odds with Azerbaijan

Fresno County’s pledge of support for the largely Armenian territory of Nagorno-Karabakh has sparked a little-known but certain international standoff, the Fresno Bee reports.

The nation of Azerbaijan, which claims rule over Karabakh, is asking Fresno County supervisors to rescind their April resolution supporting Nagorno-Karabakh’s independence.

The resolution, even if symbolic and from a seemingly irrelevant county government, undermines Azerbaijan’s sovereignty, wrote that nation’s officials in a recent letter to the county. The supervisors’ support, they wrote, contradicts even the U.S. government’s official position that Nagorno-Karabakh is rightfully part of Azerbaijan.

“This fuels fighting between the communities,” Azerbaijani Deputy Consul General Ramil Gurbanov, who is based in Los Angeles, told The Bee on Monday. It doesn’t help achieve “a diplomatic and peaceful solution in the region.”

The supervisors, however, have refused to budge on their position, though some say they’re willing to give it another look.

“We stand with our Armenian friends, both in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh … We will not be muscled by a well-funded lobbying effort by the Azerbaijanis,” said Supervisor Andreas Borgeas, who wrote the county’s statement of support for Nagorno-Karabakh.

Resolutions by local governments on world affairs are uncommon, particularly in Fresno County. Responses to the resolutions are even less common.

But Fresno County supervisors indicated that they wanted to weigh in on matters in the former Soviet Union out of respect for the views of many in the Valley’s large Armenian community.

The Fresno County resolution, passed April 23, maintains that residents of Nagorno-Karabakh have elected to govern themselves and that their wishes should be respected.

Fresno County apparently is the first in the United States to take a position on the matter, though some states have passed similar resolutions. The county urges the state of California and the federal government to also recognize the region’s independence.

Azerbaijani officials say the county is only stirring up trouble, and they’ve asked county leaders to withdraw the resolution to head off a further escalation of the matter.

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