US to help solve Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) -- The United States will work harder to help settle a 20-year territorial conflict between the ex-Soviet republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia, a U.S. diplomat said Thursday.

The two countries both claim the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, which has a population mostly of Armenians but is located within Azerbaijan.

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza, visiting Azerbaijan's capital Baku on Thursday, said it was more important than ever now to resolve the dispute, after Russia's war last month with Georgia.

"The recent events in Georgia underscore the importance of a timely resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict," said Bryza, who has been the chief U.S. mediator to end the conflict in the region. "This is well understood in Washington and is the reason for my visit this week."

Bryza told a news conference that "the United States strongly supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.

The region has been under control of ethnic Armenian forces since a six-year conflict during the waning years of the Soviet Union. Some 30,000 people were killed and about 1 million were driven from their homes before a cease-fire was reached in 1994.

Gunfire breaks out regularly near Nagorno-Karabakh, and without resolution on the region's status many fear a new war.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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