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Armenian, Azeri Religious Leaders Set To Meet In Moscow


Armenia - President Serzh Sarkisian (C) meets with Azerbaijan’s top Shia Muslim leader Sheikh-ul-Islam Allahshukur Pashazade (L) and Catholicos of All Armenians Garegin II, Yerevan, 28Nov2011

The top religious leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan are due to meet in Moscow next week to discuss ways of facilitating a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the Armenian Apostolic Church said on Thursday.

“The meeting is tentatively scheduled for September 8,” a spokesman for the church, Rev. Vahram Melikian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).“Discussions are still going on regarding issues on the agenda and only when that agenda is agreed upon will it be possible to finally confirm the day of the meeting.”

The church’s supreme head, Catholicos Garegin II, and Azerbaijan’s top Shia Muslim cleric, Sheikh-ul-Islam Allahshukur Pashazade, would meet for the first time in nearly six years in the presence of Patriarch Kirill II of the Russian Orthodox Church. Kirill mediated virtually all of their seven meetings held in the past.

“A lot of time has passed [since 2011,]” said Melikian. “I think this meeting is important now, especially after the April [2016] war [in Karabakh.]”

Azerbaijan -- Catholicos Garegin II and other Armenian clerics outside an Armenian church in Baku, 26 April 2010.
Azerbaijan -- Catholicos Garegin II and other Armenian clerics outside an Armenian church in Baku, 26 April 2010.

In Melikian’s words, Garegin and Pashazade are seeking to again help contribute to “peace and solidarity between the two peoples.” They are also hoping to “form an atmosphere” conducive to an Armenian-Azerbaijani dialogue on “very sensitive and painful issues,” he added.

The two clergymen close to their respective governments most recently met in Yerevan in November 2011 on the sidelines of a summit of spiritual leaders of ex-Soviet states. In a joint statement with Kirill, they called for the withdrawal of Armenian and Azerbaijani snipers from “the line of contact” around Karabakh. They also met with President Serzh Sarkisian at the time.

Garegin visited Baku in April 2010 to attend a summit of world religious leaders. He also met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and prayed in an abandoned Armenian church in Baku.

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