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11 February 2006 -- The Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents have resumed talks near Paris aimed at ending an 18- year-old conflict over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Robert Kocharian and Ilham Aliyev are meeting in the chateau of Rambouillet, where they have been joined by international mediators from the United States, Russia, and France, which comprise the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security And Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which has been mediating peace talks on Nagorno-Karabakh since 1994.
In the run-up to the talks, diplomats expressed guarded optimism that this time progress could be made toward a framework for settling the dispute, which has claimed at least 25,000 lives and driven more than a million people from their homes.
Armenian television reported that the atmosphere was tense going into the one-on-one talks between the presidents on 10 February. It said the two sides discussed the issue of the withdrawal of Armenian forces from Azerbaijani territory bordering Nagorno-Karabakh and their possible replacement by international forces.
The Armenian press also reported that one of the main sticking points was a proposal to hold a referendum at an indeterminate date on the final status of the disputed enclave.
(AFP, AP, ITAR-TASS)
Click on the image to view an enlarged map of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone
In February 1988, the local assembly in Stepanakert, the local capital of the Azerbaijani region of NAGORNO-KARABAKH, passed a resolution calling for unification of the predominantly ethnic-Armenian region with Armenia. There were reports of violence against local Azeris, followed by attacks against Armenians in the Azerbaijani city of Sumgait. In 1991-92, Azerbaijani forces launched an offensive against separatist forces in Nagorno-Karabakh, but the Armenians counterattacked and by 1993-94 had seized almost all of the region, as well as vast areas around it. About 600,000 Azeris were displaced and as many as 25,000 people were killed before a Russian-brokered cease-fire was imposed in May 1994.
CHRONOLOGY: For an annotated timeline of the fighting around Nagorno-Karabakh in 1988-94 and the long search for a permanent settlement to the conflict, click here.
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