The long-standing dispute over the Armenian-controlled territory of Nagorno-Karabakh is almost certain to spark a new war if it remains unresolved, Azerbaijan's defense minister said Tuesday.
"As long as Azerbaijani territory is occupied by Armenia, the chance of war is close to 100 percent," Safar Abiyev said during a meeting in Kazakhstan of defense chiefs from ex-Soviet republics.
His startlingly worded remark was a reminder that Azerbaijan has not ruled out use of force in recapturing Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas.
Azerbaijan and Armenia remain locked in a dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh despite more than a decade of coaxing from international mediators led by the United States, Russia and France to resolve the region's status. Gunfire breaks out regularly along the border between Azerbaijan and Armenia and in the regions near Nagorno-Karabakh.
Armenian Defense Minister Mikael Harutiunian said he sees no alternative to a peaceful settlement, the RIA-Novosti news agency reported.
(Photolur photo: Karabakh Armenian soldiers parade in Stepanakert.)