By Nick Butler

Armenia have officially confirmed they will compete in the inaugural European Games in neighbouring Azerbaijan ©NOCAArmenia have confirmed they will compete in the inaugural European Games in Baku despite the continuing conflict between them and Azerbaijan, it was officially announced today. 

A final decision was made by the Executive Committee of the Armenian National Olympic Committee's (NOCA) following months of deliberation.

The country expected to compete in the sports of sambo, shooting, judo, wrestling, boxing, and taekwondo.

Fierce tension has existed between Azerbaijan and Armenia ever since the two countries received independence in 1991 following the break-up of the Soviet Union over ownership of Nagorno-Karabakh, a landlocked region in the South Caucasus which lies within Azerbaijan's internationally recognised borders.

More than 30,000 people were killed and 1.2 million displaced before Russia brokered a cease-fire in 1994.

The mountainous region, inhabited predominantly by ethnic Armenians, has provoked more tension in recent months after Azerbaijan shot down what it claimed was an Armenian military helicopter on their territory east of Nagorno-Karabakh, killing three crew members.

It has taken much mediation to find a solution to allow Armenian participation in Baku.

But, following a series of promises such solution would be found, today's confirmation is a major coup for the European Olympic Committees (EOC) and Games organisers less than three months before the first European continental Games are due to open on June 12.

Some 6,000 athletes spanning all 50 EOC members now set to compete. 

Patrick Hickey has repeatedly insisted that Armenia would be able to compete, so will be delighted with the official confirmation ©Baku 2015Patrick Hickey has repeatedly insisted that Armenia would be able to compete, so will be delighted with the official confirmation ©Baku 2015

"We are very pleased to confirm our participation in the first European Games," said NOCA President Gagik Tsarukyan in a statement.

"We know that Armenian athletes will have the best possible facilities and support available to them at Baku 2015, helping them reach their peak performance this summer.

"My Executive Board took this decision based on sporting reasons alone; it is important to keep sport independent from politics.

"We have already started organising our team for the Games, we will make further announcements about our preparations in due course.

"But I can say now that this was the best decision for the future of sport in our country."

The official also thanked EOC President Patrick Hickey and International Olympic Committee counterpart Thomas Bach for the "support and encouragement they have provided which has directly led to this positive decision today".

The duo visited Yerevan last year to discuss the country's participation with officials including Armenian President, Serzh Sargsyan.

"This is great news for the European Games and for Armenian sport, and I want to congratulate the National Olympic Committee for taking this decision," said Hickey.

"From the start I have very been confident that this would be the end outcome as Armenia is a passionate sports country and an important member of the European Olympic family.

"The presence of their athletes at Baku 2015 will certainly contribute to the success of the inaugural European Games."

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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