YEREVAN — The Armenian government has approved a draft bill recognizing the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) and sent the bill to the country’s parliament for approval.

The government made it clear that the National Assembly could approve the bill only if Azerbaijan unleashes a new aggression against Karabakh.

The cabinet passed judgment on the measure proposed by two opposition lawmakers Zaruhi Postanian and Hrant Bagratian. In a written recommendation to the parliament, it said that Yerevan should recognize the NKR only “as a result of negotiations between Armenia and Artsakh (Karabakh) that would take into account further developments, including external factors.”

“Our position is clear: if Azerbaijan tries to wriggle out of the ceasefire regime and launches a new aggression, the [recognition] issue will definitely be on the agenda,” Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharian told journalists after a weekly cabinet meeting in Yerevan.

President Serzh Sarkisian threatened to recognize Karabakh following the April 2 outbreak of heavy fighting along the Karabakh “line of contact” which left at least 170 soldiers from both sides dead. Azerbaijan’s government warned Yerevan this week against taking such a “provocative” step.

A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed hope on Thursday that Yerevan will not press ahead with the recognition. “We are very closely monitoring decisions taken in this context,” Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow. “We certainly continue to expect the parties will avoid any steps that could undermine the shaky ceasefire and lead to an escalation of tensions in Nagorno-Karabakh.”

Azerbaijan, meanwhile, has warned that if Armenia does pass the bill this time around, it will mean the end of the negotiating process within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group calling it “another Armenian provocation”.

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