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HELSINKI, Nov 6, 2007 (AFP) - Finland will push for a solution to the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the break-away province of Nagorno-Karabakh when it takes over the OSCE presidency next year, President Tarja Halonen said Tuesday.

“We’ll do our utmost to strengthen the process concerning Nagorno-Karabakh and we are cautiously optimistic that we can push forward the process in a positive way during our presidency," Halonen told a press conference following a meeting with her Armenian counterpart Robert Kocharian.

“Being a very cautious person, I do not say that we can solve it, but why not? At least (we will) push forward strongly,” she added.

Finland is set to take over the rotating presidency of the 55-member Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in 2008.

Backed by their ethnic brethren in Armenia, separatists seized Karabakh and seven surrounding regions from Azerbaijan in the early 1990s.

The war was one of the bloodiest of the many conflicts that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, claiming 30,000 lives and forcing nearly one million people on both sides to flee their homes.

Armenia and Azerbaijan remain officially at war over Karabakh and the dispute is a major source of instability in the strategic South Caucasus region wedged between Iran, Russia and Turkey.

Kocharian cautioned last week not to be too optimistic about resolving the issue before next year's planned presidential elections in Armenia.
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