BAKU, (AFP) - Azerbaijan demanded on Tuesday that one of the bloodiest episodes of its war with Armenia over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh be recognized by the international community as genocide.
The call came as Azerbaijan held a day of mourning to mark the 10th anniversary of the capture by Armenian forces of the Karabakh town of Khojali during which, officials here say, 613 civilians were murdered.
"The tragedy in Khojali is ... the bloodiest page in the history of ethnic cleansing and genocide carried out ... by Armenians against Azerbaijan," Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliev said in a statement released by his office.
"Today our task is to inform states, parliaments and the wider public of the full truth of the genocide in Khojali ... and to have it recognized as a genuine act of genocide."
A delegation of French diplomats on Tuesday walked out of a hearing in Azerbaijan's parliament in protest after a legislator used undiplomatic language about French President Jacques Chirac.
The spat broke out after deputy Shamil Gurbanov said Chirac "had a real nerve" to recognize Turkey's genocide of Armenians while not acknowledging what Azerbaijan alleges is the genocide of its people at the hands of Armenians.
In a statement, the French embassy in Azerbaijan confirmed its diplomats, in parliament as observers, had walked out in protest and said: "We regret the incident that happened today in parliament."
But it added: "We note that the speaker of parliament, Murtuz Aleskerov, reacted in the appropriate way by asking the deputy to come to order. Today was a day of mourning for a very painful event for Azerbaijan."
France's National Assembly voted in January 2001 to recognize the Ottoman Empire's 1915 pogroms against Armenians as genocide.