By Emil Danielyan
President Robert Kocharian told the Armenian military to strengthen its combat readiness over the weekend as he visited several army bases deployed along an undisclosed section of the border with Azerbaijan, official sources said Monday.
Kocharian, according to his press office, was “by and large satisfied” with results of his three-day inspection of the armed forces. He was at the same time quoted as telling officers that they “should not content themselves with the achieved results” and must improve their skills. “Existing problems, shortcomings and their causes were discussed in great detail,” the presidential press service said without elaborating. There was also no word on which section of the heavily fortified Armenian-Azerbaijan border Kocharian visited.
The press service released several photographs showing Kocharian, clad in a camouflaged army uniform, visiting frontline Armenian posts and inaugurating a new army barracks. “New fortifications, built along the entire frontier zone within a short period of time, have improved living conditions of soldiers and officers holding the positions,” it said. Kocharian was also said to have watched shooting exercises at a nearby firing range.
The Armenian leader, who headed Nagorno-Karabakh during its victorious war against Azerbaijan in the 1990s, periodically inspects military units in various parts of the country. But his weekend trip was the longest such inspection on record.
It came amid growing threats by Azerbaijan to end the seven-year ceasefire and try to win back Karabakh by force unless international mediators ensure restoration of its sovereignty over the disputed region. Azerbaijani officials have criticized new peace proposals, put forward by the French, Russian and US co-chairs of the OSCE’s Minsk Group last week, as falling short of that.
"I don't see much difference for Azerbaijan in the recent proposals. They are unacceptable," Novruz Mamedov, a senior aide to Azerbaijan’s President Heydar Aliev, was quoted by The Associated Press as saying on Friday. Foreign Minister Vilayat Guliev made similar remarks in an interview with RFE/RL in Strasbourg last week.
Armenian and Karabakh officials appear to be largely supportive of the Minsk Group proposals and have indicated that they are based on agreements reached by Aliev and Kocharian in Paris and Key West earlier this year. They have implicitly accused Aliev of backtracking on those agreements.