Clinton urges Armenia-Azerbaijan peace

BAKU, Azerbaijan, July 4 (UPI) -- Peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan is needed for both nations to create safe and flourishing futures, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday.

Peace "is a prerequisite for building a secure and prosperous future in both nations," Clinton told reporters in Azerbaijan's capital, Baku.


The two nations are in conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a 3,200-square-mile landlocked enclave of Azerbaijan that has been under control of Armenian troops and ethnic Armenian forces since a 1994 cease-fire ended the six-year Nagorno-Karabakh War.

Tensions between the countries rose in recent months and at least four Armenian and two Azerbaijani soldiers were killed in fighting over the region in June.

Clinton first met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev for lunch, then flew to Armenia's capital, Yerevan, for a dinner meeting with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan.

She told reporters June's clashes were "unacceptable" cease-fire violations and contrary to the stated commitments of both sides, Voice of America reported.

She said Washington urged both sides to refrain from force and to work out basic principles leading to a settlement.

"Everyone knows these are difficult steps to take, but we believe they are important ones and we have expressed our concern to both presidents today that the return to violence is unacceptable," Clinton said.


Clinton also called on Armenian neighbor Turkey to normalize ties with Armenia.

And she reaffirmed a U.S. call for Russia to end what she called the "continuing occupation" of the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia since the 2008 war with Georgia.

Clinton is to spend several hours in Georgia Monday, ending a four-day trip to five countries that started in Ukraine and Poland.

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