Azerbaijan has suspended the activities of money transfer companies Western Union and MoneyGram because they operate in Nagorno-Karabakh, the central bank said Friday.
"Transfers and reception of money under these systems have been completely suspended in all banks of Azerbaijan," the statement said. "This is in connection with the possibility of receiving transfers through Western Union and MoneyGram on the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh."
"All 42 banks who are members of the Azerbaijan Banks Association (ABA) support the central bank's decision as it is based on the national interests of Azerbaijan," ABA head Eldar Ismailov told Reuters.
"Despite all requests from Azerbaijan, Western Union and MoneyGram have continued to do money transfers in occupied Azeri territories," read a separate central bank letter to local banks. "The central bank has recommended to banks working in Azerbaijan that they stop using these systems for money transfers," it added.
The news came as foreign ministers from Armenia and Azerbaijan met in Moscow on Friday to seek a peace deal on the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Western Union and MoneyGram have no offices in Azerbaijan but their transfer systems have been operational there since 1990s.
A representative of the International Bank of Azerbaijan told Reuters that the country's banking system won't suffer big losses as a result of halting operations with Western Union and MoneyGram. "I think the losses that Western Union and MoneyGram will suffer from not having operations in Azerbaijan will force them to reconsider the situation in favor of Azerbaijan," the representative said.
Western Union and MoneyGram could not be immediately reached for comment.