BAKU, (AFP) - Azerbaijan's President Heydar Aliev said on Wednesday his country will go to war to take back the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh if Armenia does not relinquish it peacefully.
"Azerbaijan will never give up its land," the 78-year-old president said in a speech broadcast live on Azeri public television. "We will definitely get it back. We have everything we need to do that. If it cannot be done peacefully, then we will get it back
with the help of our army," said Aliev.
It was the third time this year Aliev has publicly threatened military action over Nagorno-Karabakh after peace talks, which had appeared to be making good progress, stalled in April.
In his speech, on the eve of the tenth anniversary of Azerbaijan's independence from the Soviet Union, Aliev compared his country's treatment by Armenia to the September 11 terrorist attacks on US cities.
"Today the world has confronted a terrible terror," he said. "We also know what terrorism is. Terrorism should be liquidated everywhere, no matter who it is directed against."
Western observers believe a renewal of hostilities is unlikely because Azerbaijan's military is weak, and with foreign investment pouring into its oil industry, it has too much at stake. Aliyev ended the war with Armenia by negotiating a ceasefire soon after he came to power in 1993.
He said in his speech that the ten years Azerbaijan, a nation of
eight million people in the war-torn Caucasus mountains, has been
independent are a triumph against the odds. "We are very proud because we have shown that Azerbaijan can exist as a free state," said Aliev. "The rights of the Azeri people to live in freedom have been achieved in full."
"Today independent Azerbaijan has taken its place in world history... I believe that Azerbaijan will never lose its independence."