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Armenia: President Downplays Clashes With Azerbaijan

Yerevan, 22 April 1997 (RFE/RL) - Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossian downplays recent reports of clashes on his country's border with Azerbaijan and expressed confidence the cease-fire will hold.

Our correspondent in Yerevan reports the Armenian president also said cooperation with Baku is possible if the conflict over the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh is resolved. Nagorno-Karabakh is an ethnic Armenian enclave situated within Azerbaijan. The two countries have been locked in dispute over the region for nine years.

Ter-Petrossian told reporters in Yerevan that oil played a key role in settling the conflict. He said Azerbaijan's huge oil reserves had prompted the West to side with Baku in the dispute.

Yesterday, Armenia's defense ministry denied reports from Baku that its forces launched a weekend offensive along their common border. Azerbaijani officials said Armenian troops, backed by tanks, tried to cross into Azerbaijan, but were repelled. Baku said 50 people on both sides were killed in the fighting.