Armenia prepared to fight Azerbaijan over Karabakh

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Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian said on Thursday that his country was prepared to fight its ex-Soviet neighbour Azerbaijan again if necessary over the disputed region of Nagorny Karabakh.

"I have repeatedly stated that we are against a war, but that doesn't mean we are afraid to fight," Sarkisian told Russia's Moscow Echo radio station.

He said that he was ready to "defend" Karabakh, which is currently controlled by Armenian-backed separatists, because the population would be expelled if Azerbaijan managed to seize the region back.

"If by some miracle Karabakh was under Azerbaijani control even for an hour, there would be no Armenian left there," he told the station.

"We must protect our population using any means necessary," he said.

Tensions have mounted over Karabakh during the past year amid stalled peace talks, increasingly belligerent rhetoric and frequent skirmishes along the ceasefire line.

Three soldiers are already reported to have been killed during exchanges of fire since the start of 2011.

International mediators have raised concern about increasing violence over the region, where ethnic Armenian separatists backed by Yerevan seized control from Baku in a war in the early 1990s that left an estimated 30,000 dead.

Azerbaijan has repeatedly threatened to use force to win back Karabakh if peace talks do not yield satisfactory results, while Armenia has warned of large-scale retaliation if Baku launches any military action.

© 2011 AFP

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