By Emil Danielyan
Official Baku accused Armenia on Wednesday of trying to destabilize the situation in Azerbaijan in the run-up to its presidential elections after reporting a fresh firefight and casualties near Nagorno-Karabakh.
Foreign Minister Vilayat Guliev again blamed the Armenian side for recent months’ deadly skirmishes along the Armenian-Azerbaijani line of contact, implying that Yerevan wants to capitalize on the political uncertainty caused by President Heydar Aliev’s serious health problems.
“The situation has been tense on the front line in the past two months. The Armenian side, as you know, has violated the cease-fire many times,” Azerbaijani media quoted him as saying. “The Azerbaijani army incurred losses. I think this tendency will continue since disrupting stability in Azerbaijan today meets Armenia's interests.”
“At the same time, I am confident that the Azerbaijani army is on guard. It maintains its positions and will thwart all kinds of provocation,” Guliev added.
Guliev’s remarks followed reports that yet another Azerbaijani soldier was killed in action on Monday near the Armenian-controlled Aghdam district east of Karabakh. No other details were reported by Azerbaijani sources.
Officials at the defense and foreign ministries of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic could not immediately confirm or deny the reports. A spokesman for the Defense Ministry in Yerevan likewise declined a comment, saying that the area is not under Armenia’s jurisdiction.
“No shots have been fired from both sides of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border in the last three or four days,” Colonel Seyran Shahsuvarian told RFE/RL.
One of the sections of the militarized border was the scene of a brief shootout between the two rival armies on August 19 just as it was inspected by officials from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe monitoring the Armenian-Azerbaijani ceasefire regime. The OSCE observers cut short the routine monitoring as a result.
Armenia indicated on Tuesday its support for the apparent transfer of power from Aliev to his son Ilham who was appointed as prime minister of Azerbaijan earlier this month. Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian told the Armnews channel that his country is interested in continued political stability in Azerbaijan because it wants a quick end to the Karabakh conflict. He argued that Ilham must be familiar with agreements reached by his father with Kocharian and is therefore well placed to continue the peace process.
In a recent newspaper interview, the younger Aliev said that the only acceptable solution to the Karabakh conflict is "the total liberation of the territory occupied by Armenian forces.”