Pope urges ‘stable peace’ on visit to Azerbaijan

Pope Francis on Sunday called for a “stable peace” as he visited mainly Muslim Azerbaijan, several months after pushing for an end to a festering territorial feud while in arch-foe Armenia, AFP reports.

The pontiff met in private with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev – who is accused by rights groups of ruthlessly stamping out dissent in the energy-rich country – before addressing a gathering of government officials.

The Pope – on the last leg of a Caucasus tour that also took him to Georgia – reiterated calls for peace to he made three months ago in neighbouring Armenia, with the two country’s locked in a long-simmering conflict over the breakaway region of Nagorny Karabakh.

“There is no alternative to patiently and assiduously searching for shared solutions by means of committed and sustained negotiations,” he said in a carefully worded statement that did not mention the disputed territory explicitly, expressing sympathy “to the many people who suffer the effects of bloody conflicts.”

Calling for “a new phase for stable peace in the region”, the pope invited all players “to grasp every opportunity to reach a satisfactory solution.”

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