Karabakh: Azerbaijan says ready for war, Armenia says ready to counterstrike

Over the last week President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan at least three times during interviews and official meetings stated that Azerbaijan is preparing for war, and the Armenian people will mobilize their full potential in the event of resumed hostilities over Karabakh.

Some experts link the president’s statement to the coming election campaign. The subject of a possible war in Karabakh is a traditional occasion cited by establishment forces in Armenia for “consolidation”, while the opposition gets accused of “committing treason in a difficult period for the country”.

However, this time, apparently, there are also other reasons for such statements by Sargsyan.

The first Commander-in-Chief of the Self-Defense Forces of Nagorno-Karabakh Arkady Karapetyan (also known as Ago) said in an interview with ARMENIA Today that in the event of Karabakh’s opening the Stepanakert airport, Azerbaijan will technically be able to shoot down civilian aircraft.

“They have the technology for that. But such strikes will mean the start of hostilities. Azerbaijan may at any time start a new war. Sooner or later there will be a war. I often talk about it, because our people believe in fairytales about a peaceful solution. I have already said in the past that after the situation with Ramil Safarov it is simply unacceptable to talk about a peaceful settlement. Azerbaijan’s actions in this matter amounted to a declaration of war,” said Karapetyan.

Earlier, in an interview with Reuters, Armenian President Sargsyan said Azerbaijan was acquiring a “horrendous quantity” of arms to prepare for new fighting.

“Now, 18 years after the signing of this cease-fire agreement, Azerbaijan threatens us with a new war,” said Sargsyan.

Sargsyan accused Azerbaijanis of having hatred toward Armenians, but added that he hoped for a negotiated settlement to end the conflict: “When I say that there is hatred towards Armenians, a general xenophobia in Azerbaijan; when I say there is a dangerous accumulation of armaments in Azerbaijan; when I say Azerbaijan is getting prepared for resuming military hostilities and settling the conflict by military means, that doesn’t mean at all that there is no need to continue with negotiations.”

Still, it is quite obvious that the negotiations conducted within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group have reached an impasse. No one even mentions the so-called Madrid Principles of settlement proposed to the sides by the mediators several years ago, and there appear to be no new proposals on the table now. The very format of the negotiations spearheaded by the Minsk Group has been called into question.

At an opening ceremony for a new youth center in Terter on the border with Karabakh on Sunday Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev made fresh anti-Armenian statements, repeating the traditional military threats.

“Azerbaijan has authority in the region and we will continue to use our influence and possibilities to further isolate Armenia. They [Armenians] are even now isolated from the international projects, and, of course, we will continue this policy in the future,” said the Azeri president. “We have to be even stronger. If we are stronger, then the issue will be solved. So, on my visit to this Karabakh region, I once again would like to express my opinion on the matter. I have repeatedly spoken about this: Nagorno-Karabakh is Azerbaijani land and will remain such, the Azerbaijani flag will fly in Shusha and Khankendi (Shushi and Stepanakert).”

“Azerbaijan and Armenia are incomparable. We are going forward and they are drawing back, falling into decay. Our economy is growing, and their economy is in fact in a paralyzed state. Our population is growing, and they are having a demographic catastrophe, we can say they have no natural growth, while at the same time there is a mass exodus from the country. We hope that they will finally withdraw from our land peacefully. If not, I’m absolutely sure that we will regain our lands by all means, will return to these lands; the territorial integrity and sovereignty Azerbaijan will be restored,” said Aliyev.

At the same time, President Sargsyan stated that the pardon of Azerbaijani axe-murderer Ramil Safarov by Aliyev showed that Nagorno-Karabakh could never be part of Azerbaijan. “It again reconfirms our view that the people of Nagorno-Karabakh have no future in the framework of Azerbaijan…We have no doubt that Azerbaijan’s aim is to change the situation by the application of its military means and the only preventative mechanism for their desires is the combat-readiness of the Armenian armed forces,” he said.

Sargsyan called on the international community to take “concrete steps” in the search for a settlement. He said Azerbaijan was in violation of a European treaty limiting holdings of weaponry. Inspectors were aware of the situation “and there is zero action on this”.

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