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Armenia peace deal close at hand

YEREVAN, Armenia, July 12 (UPI) — Former Soviet states Armenia and Azerbaijan may be close to a deal on Nagorno-Karabakh, ending the two neighbors’ 17-year ethnic conflict over the region.

Radio Free Europe, quoting sources in the Armenian capital of Yerevan, reported Tuesday the peace deal would allow the ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh to decide their status in an internationally supervised referendum.

Armenia, which is largely Christian, and Muslim Azerbaijan have fought over the territory, inhabited mostly by Armenians, since 1988. The conflict worsened after both countries gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

The sources told RFE that the parties have agreed on the key points of the peace deal, which could be formalized by the end pf this year or early next year.

In the referendum, Karabakh Armenians would decide, in a vote within 10 to 15 years, whether they want to be independent, become a part of Armenia or return to Azerbaijani rule.

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