Chirac urges to solve dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia peacefully

President Jacques Chirac urged his Azerbaijani counterpart Tuesday to push for a peaceful settlement of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh. "There is no alternative to a peaceful, negotiated settlement," Chirac told Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev.

Chirac expressed support for international mediators who last week urged a compromise over the enclave, which is inside Azerbaijan but has been controlled by ethnic Armenians since a war in the early 1990s that killed 30,000 people and drove about 1 million people from their homes. Border clashes sporadically break out and a lack of resolution has hindered development throughout the strategic Caucasus region.

French, U.S. and Russian mediators have been trying for a decade to secure a settlement. Talks in France in February between Aliev and Armenian President Robert Kocharian about the enclave broke down. Since then, violence has risen sharply, and the two countries' presidents have traded increasingly hostile statements.

Kocharian refused an invitation to meet with Aliev this week in Paris on the sidelines of a NATO gathering. Aliev, speaking Tuesday at the NATO parliamentary assembly, called Karabakh "a black hole of Europe ." Meanwhile, in Armenia 's capital, Yerevan , Armenian defense officials refused to attend a meeting of military chiefs from ex-Soviet republics in neighboring Azerbaijan , saying officials there could not guarantee their safety. Two years ago, during a NATO seminar in Hungary , an Azerbaijani military officer hacked an Armenian classmate to death with an ax, reports the AP.

N.U.