By Hrant Aleksanian in Stepanakert
The commander of Nagorno-Karabakh’s army, General Seyran Ohanian, on Friday again warned Azerbaijan against attempting to win back the Armenian-controlled region by force. He said his troops are capable of repelling any offensive and advancing deeper into Azerbaijani territory.
“Today the Karabakh Defense Army is as prepared to achieve objectives set for it as never before,” the general, who is also the defense minister of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, told RFE/RL in an interview.
“We are ready to give an adequate response to any aggression not only with defensive but also counter-offensive operations,” he said.
The Azerbaijani government has repeatedly threatened to use force to regain control of Karabakh if the long-running peace talks do not ensure restoration of its sovereignty over the disputed territory and Azerbaijani districts around it. The threats have been rejected by the authorities in Yerevan and Stepanakert.
Ohanian said the Karabakh military takes the belligerent statements from Baku seriously and continues to boost its combat-readiness. He said the past year was successful in that regard, with a record-high number of conscripts and army reservists called up for military service. The Karabakh Armenian army remains “the best in the region,” he claimed.
Military officials say the Karabakh forces increasingly draw on the expertise and assistance of veterans of the successful 1991-94 war with Azerbaijan. Ohanian, a former Soviet army officer, was himself a senior commander during the war and lost one of his legs in combat.