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U.S. Intel Chief Sees Increased Chance Of Karabakh Conflict

U.S. National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair testifies during a hearing before the Senate Select Intelligence Committee on February 2.
YEREVAN -- The top U.S. intelligence official says the likelihood of another Armenian-Azerbaijani war for Nagorno-Karabakh has increased because of the U.S.-backed rapprochement between Armenia and Turkey, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair warned in written testimony to a U.S. Senate committee late on February 2 that "although there has been progress in the past year toward Turkey-Armenia rapprochement, this has affected the delicate relationship between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and increases the risk of a renewed conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh."

The United States has strongly supported and at times mediated in the Turkish-Armenian rapprochement that began nearly two years ago and led to the signing in October of two protocols envisaging the normalization of relations between the two historical foes.

Azerbaijan has condemned the agreements, saying an open border with Turkey would only discourage Armenia from seeking a compromise solution to Nagorno-Karabakh.

Azerbaijani leaders have also continued to threaten to win back Karabakh and surrounding Armenian-occupied territory by force. The authorities in Armenia and Karabakh have dismissed the war threats. Until recently at least, U.S. diplomats had expressed confidence that the chances were slim of renewed large-scale fighting in Karabakh.