Hundreds of thousands of refugees continue to live in camps in Azerbaijan (ITAR-TASS)
May 17, 2006 -- A U.S. State Department official has expressed optimism about the possibility of a peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory.
Matthew Bryza, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, said at a meeting in Washington on May 16 that the two sides are now closer to an agreement than they have been in the past.
He said, however, that the Armenian and Azerbaijani governments will have to show political courage to reach a final deal. He said Washington views the next couple of months as a "real window of opportunity" to resolve the dispute.
Yerevan and Baku have been formally at war since 1988, when the predominantly ethnic Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh seceded from Soviet Azerbaijan.
The United States, Russia, and France co-chair the Minsk Group of nations mandated by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to mediate between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
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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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