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U.S. 'Concerned' By Azerbaijani-Armenian Tensions


U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has warned that tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh could escalate into a much broader conflict.

Clinton was speaking in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, at the start of a tour of the South Caucasus region. She then flew on to her next stop, Georgia.

In Yerevan, Clinton met with President Serzh Sarkisian and other Armenian officials. The talks were expected to include discussions on pushing forward peace efforts on Nagorno-Karabakh, the ethnic Armenian separatist territory inside Azerbaijan.

Tensions remain high over the dispute, with both sides accusing the other of occasional truce violations.

Earlier on June 4, Armenia said three Armenian soldiers died in a shoot-out with "infiltrators" from Azerbaijan who tried to break into Armenia's northeastern Tavush region.

Azerbaijan denied its soldiers were involved.

The Armenian Defense Ministry said that "several" more Armenian soldiers had been wounded in the exchange of fire.

Clinton said she was "very concerned" about the danger of escalation of tensions and the "senseless deaths."

She warned Armenia and Azerbaijan not to try to settle their dispute by force.

Speaking at a news conference with Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian, Clinton said, "the use of force will not resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and therefore force must not be used."

An estimated 30,000 people were killed in the war in the early 1990s over Nagorno-Karabakh, when ethnic Armenian forces backed by Yerevan seized control over the region and surrounding territories in Azerbaijan.

The was ended with a 1994 cease-fire but the two sides have failed to negotiate a settlement.

Clinton also urged Turkey to normalize relations with Armenia, severed since 1993 at the height of the war over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Clinton flew late on June 4 to Batumi, Georgia, where she is scheduled to meet with President Mikhail Saakashvili on June 5, and then travel to Azerbaijan on June 6, and Turkey on June 7.

With reporting by AFP, Interfax, and dpa
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