Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian was Wednesday drawn into the row over the description of Azerbaijani districts occupied during the Nagorno-Karabakh war when he disagreed with nationalist politicians' view that the lands in question were "liberated" by Armenian forces. Sarkisian, who was Karabakh's wartime defense minister, said the Azerbaijani town of Aghdam and most of the other territories around the disputed enclave were overrun by his troops for a strictly military purpose.
"I don't think that we grabbed those lands," he told the parliament. "But at the same time I can not share the view that we liberated Aghdam. We did occupy lands and must never feel ashamed of that. We occupied those lands in order to ensure security of our homeland."
The comments were made during the government's weekly question-and-answer session in the National Assembly. Sarkisian was asked to comment on Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian's use of the term "occupied" ("okupatsvats") with regard to the Armenian-controlled districts in Azerbaijan proper. The term has negative connotations in Armenian and Oskanian's remark has caused a domestic uproar, prompting allegations that Yerevan is preparing the public for sweeping concessions on Karabakh. Oskanian, who is a former US citizen, said he thought the word has the same meaning as in English language.
Sarkisian, steering clear of another controversy, used a different Armenian word ("gravats") when referring to the occupied Azerbaijani territories most of which would have to be returned to Baku under a future peace deal.