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President Says Armenia 'Will Defend' Nagorno-Karabakh

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.


The Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict

The Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict

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.

Click on the icon to view images of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict (Flash required)

To view an archive of all of RFE/RL's coverage of Nagorno-Karabakh, click here.