YEREVAN, January 18, /ARKA/. Armenian armed forces will ensure the safe operation of Stepanakert airport in Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR), Armenian defense minister Seyran Ohanian said today.
The renovated airport, equipped with modern technology and able to handle 100 passengers an hour is fully ready to operate flights between Stepanakert and Yerevan.. According to NKR authorities, later it will operate also international flights.
Azerbaijan has threatened to down Karabakh planes. Azerbaijan’s military rhetoric has not subsided despite warning by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen.
"I said, and I repeat today that Armenian air defense forces will ensure the safety of flights between NKR and Armenia,’ Ohanian said.
The conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh broke out in 1988 after the predominantly Armenian-populated enclave declared about secession from Azerbaijan. As Azerbaijan declared its independence from the Soviet Union and removed the powers held by the enclave's government, the Armenian majority voted in 1991, December 10, to secede from Azerbaijan and in the process proclaimed the enclave the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Full-scale fighting, initiated by Azerbaijan, erupted in the late winter of 1992. International mediation by several groups including Europe's OSCE’s failed to bring an end resolution that both sides could work with. In the spring of 1993, Armenian forces captured regions outside the enclave itself. By the end of the war in 1994, the Armenians were in full control of most of the enclave and also held and currently control seven regions beyond the administrative borders of Nagorno-Karabakh. Almost 1 million people on both sides have been displaced as a result of the conflict. A Russian- -brokered ceasefire was signed in May 1994 and peace talks, mediated by the OSCE Minsk Group, have been held ever since by Armenia and Azerbaijan.-0-