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Robert Kocharian (file photo) (AFP)
March 3, 2006 -- Armenian President Robert Kocharian has vowed to defend the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh and recognize its independence if Azerbaijan resorts to force.
Kocharian's comments on March 2 came a day after Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev called for liberating the enclave from ethnic Armenian forces "no matter what it takes."
Nagorno-Karabakh is in Azerbaijan but populated mainly by ethnic Armenians. A 1994 cease-fire ended six years of fighting that left more than 30,000 people dead, but efforts to reach a political settlement have so far failed.
Kocharian and Aliyev met last month in France, but the talks ended without any breakthrough.
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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