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(AFP) - The armed forces of the self-proclaimed republic of Nagorno-Karabakh Tuesday ended a military exercise on the borders of Azerbaijan that Armenian Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian said was aimed at keeping the peace.

Sarkisian, who watched the maneuvers, said "these exercises are aimed at keeping the peace." He added it was important to keep a regional power balance.

"The armed forces of Armenia are the guarantors of the security of Nagorno-Karabakh," he said. "It is nobody's secret that the army of Nagorno-Karabakh cannot assure the defense of the territory on its own."

The Nagorno-Karabakh armed forces mustered some 2,000 men and a few helicopters and artillery pieces for the week-long exercise.

"The threat of war exists as long as the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh is not resolved," said Armenian army chief of staff Mikael Harutiunian.

The exercises followed a statement by President Ilham Aliev of Azerbaijan that his country would make no compromises with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. The statement appeared to mark a hardening of Azerbaijan's stance over the conflict.

"We cannot react positively to calls on us to make compromises. On questions of our territorial integrity we will never make any compromises," Aliev said last month.

(Photolur photo)
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