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Armenian, Azeri Leaders Meet on Nagorno-Karabakh - 2002-08-14

The leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia are meeting to discuss the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

This is the first meeting in months between Azerbaijani President Geidar Aliev and Armenian President Robert Kocharian to discuss their dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh.

The talks are being held in the Nakhichevan region of Azerbaijan, an area separated from the rest of the country by Armenian territory.

Residents of Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence in 1991. A war then broke out between Azerbaijani troops trying to reclaim their territory and residents of Nagorno-Karabakh backed by Armenia.

About 30,000 people died and one million were forced from their homes as a result of fighting.

A ceasefire was declared in 1994, but the two sides have not been able to come to a political solution. Although the region has de facto independence, the international community still considers it to be part of Azerbaijan.

Before the meeting, Azerbaijani President Aliev said he did not know what to expect from the talks with the Armenian president.

Representatives from the two countries have met numerous times in the past to discuss the Nagorno-Karabakh issue but with little result. So, expectations are not high that this meeting will produce a solution.

The meeting comes just a few days after residents of Nagorno-Karabakh held a presidential election. It is the region's third such election since declaring independence.

The newly elected president, Arkady Gukasian, said after winning the elections that independence is the only answer for Nagorno-Karabakh.