BAKU (RFE/RL) — The spiritual leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan voiced
support for the long-running efforts to peacefully resolve the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict and vowed to help reconcile their estranged nations after a landmark meeting in Baku on Monday.
The supreme head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Catholicos Karekin II, met with Azerbaijan’s Shia Muslim leader, Sheikh-ul-Islam Allahshukur Pashazade, as well as the Russian Orthodox Church leader, Patriarch Kirill II, on the sidelines of a summit of world religious leaders held in the Azerbaijan. Karekin II attended the forum at their invitation.
The three leaders appealed for Karabagh peace in a joint declaration issued after their meeting. The declaration encourages the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents as well as international mediators to continue to look for a compromise solution to the bitter dispute.
“It is vitally important not to allow a return to military ways of solving contentious issues,” reads the document. “With our peace efforts, we will be sustaining people’s hopes for the elimination of existing divisions, barriers and animosity, for war, if it is continued, will have no end.” It welcomes
liberation of prisoners and other “acts of goodwill” between the warring
sides and condemns any “acts of vandalism” committed in the conflict zone.
“I believe that all problems in the Caucasus, including the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict, will be solved by peaceful and just means,” the Azerbaijani Trend news agency quoted Pashazade as telling Karekin II at the meeting. “I am confident that you too will strive to make sure that the problem does not take on a religious character.”
Karekin II was reported to agree, saying that the two clergies should jointly
make sure that the Karabagh conflict does not transform into a “religious