Caucasus is seat of tension: U.S. National Intelligence News director
Azerbaijan, Baku, Feb. 13 / Trend /
Difficulties resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict create tensions in the South Caucasus, U.S. National Intelligence News Director Dennis Blair said.
"Azerbaijan has been concerned about isolation since Kosovo announced independence, Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia and Armenian-Turkish relations improved," Blair said during Special Senate Intelligence Committee hearings at the Capitol, ITAR-TASS reported.
Armenia is also worried about Azerbaijan's increasing army, he added. Both countries are facing problems implementing democratic reforms due to the economic downturn, he said.
The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. Armenian armed forces have occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan since 1992, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and 7 surrounding districts. Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a ceasefire agreement in 1994. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group - Russia, France, and the U.S. - are currently holding the peace negotiations.
"There are great tensions in the Caucasus," Blair said. "Six months after the military conflict between Russia and Georgia over Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the regions are still hot spots."
"Although the political situation in Georgia has stabilized, President Mikheil Saakashvili faces increasing criticism from the opposition. His reaction will either strengthen or break down the democratic process in the country," he said.