Azeris jeer Armenian delegation at European Games

Baku (AFP) - Azerbaijan spectators gave the small Armenian delegation a hostile reception when they entered the Olympic Stadium in Baku for the lavish opening ceremony of the inaugural European Games on Friday.

The two Caucasus countries have been locked in conflict since a bloody war in the early 1990s following the breakup of the Soviet Union.

The decision by the Armenians to compete was a considerable diplomatic coup for European Olympic Committee president Pat Hickey who laboured long and hard to persuade them to come.

He even earned praise from a European parliamentarian for managing the feat as she had failed to even get their diplomatic representatives to meet in her office after years of trying.

The Armenia team had been anticipating a 'warm' welcome and they duly got it as their delegation -- seemingly without athletes as it comprised elderly looking, grey-haired men -- was jeered.

Some spectators chanted 'Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan' and brandished the national flag.

Their enmity dates back to the early part of the 20th century before being cut short by them becoming part of the Soviet Union.

However, once the Soviet Union disappeared, violence reared its head again and Yerevan-backed ethnic Armenian separatists seized control of Karabakh during the 1990s' conflict that left some 30,000 dead.

Despite years of negotiations, the two countries have not signed a final peace deal following a shaky 1994 truce, and clashes have intensified over the past year along the Karabakh frontline.

The predominantly Armenian-populated region is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan.