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Azerbaijan minister says military conflict with Armenia possible

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Azerbaijan's defense minister said military conflict with Armenia over the disputed Nagorno Karabakh area was likely but his Armenian counterpart denied such a possibility.

"So long as Azerbaijan's territories remain occupied by Armenia, the chances of a war are nearly 100%," Safar Abiyev told a news conference in Astana, Kazakhstan, after a regular meeting of post-Soviet defense ministers.

Armenia's Defense Minister Mikael Arutyunyan, however, disagreed with Abiyev and said a peaceful resolution to the issue of Nagorny Karabakh, a territory in Azerbaijan mostly populated by ethnic Armenians, was the only option.

"We see no alternative to a peaceful resolution. Our presidents are negotiating a peaceful resolution to the Karabakh conflict," he said, adding that Abiyev as a minister had no right to make such statements at a time when the two presidents were conducting peace talks.

The conflict between the two former Soviet republics over Nagorny Karabakh first erupted in 1988 when it proclaimed independence from Azerbaijan to join Armenia.

Over 30,000 people were killed on both sides between 1988 and 1994, and over 100 have died since a 1994 ceasefire was announced. Nagorny Karabakh remains in Armenian hands, but tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia have persisted. - RIA Novosti

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