By Emil Danielyan
Armenia will cease to exist as an independent state and its territory will be incorporated into Azerbaijan over the next three decades, a senior Azerbaijani military official was quoted Wednesday as saying, raising anti-Armenian bellicose rhetoric in Baku to new heights.
“Within the next 25-years there will exist no state of Armenia in the South Caucasus,” Colonel Ramiz Melikov, the chief spokesman for Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry, said, according to the Baku daily “Zerkalo.” “Those people have done so many nasty things to their neighbors that they have no right to live in this region.”
“Modern Armenia is built on historical Azerbaijani lands,” he added. “I think that in 25-30 years’ times its territory will again come under Azerbaijan’s jurisdiction.”
Melikov was quoted in an extensive “Zerkalo” article that called on the Azerbaijani government to promptly restart the war with the Armenians and win back Nagorno-Karabakh. The Azerbaijani leadership regularly threatens to do just that, complaining about the international community’s reluctance to end Armenian control of the disputed region. The most recent such threat came from President Ilham Aliev last week.
“Zerkalo” said Azerbaijani military officials believe that their troops are prepared for renewed hostilities and that “the upcoming war will not be long-lasting.”
“Today the personnel of the Azerbaijani armed forces is not the one that existed ten years ago,” Melikov said. “We substantially exceed Armenia with the size of the population and the number of soldiers. Soon the entire world will recognize Armenia as an aggressor country. That is why Armenia is now on the brink of defeat.”
Melikov’s doomsday scenario for Armenia’s future is bound to be laughed off by the Armenian government. Official Yerevan has repeatedly dismissed bellicose statements from Baku, saying that Azerbaijan would have long resumed the war without a warning had it been confident of victory. But its reaction to Aliev’s latest threats was unusually sharp, with the Armenian Foreign Ministry warning Azerbaijan of “disastrous consequences.”
As if to drive home the point, the armed forces of the internationally unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic began on Tuesday a ten-day military exercise which officials say will test their combat-readiness during “defensive and counter-offensive operations.” The war games followed a call-up of army reservists and will involve the use of live ammunition.
Regional and international observers agree that Azerbaijan is unlikely to try a military solution to the Karabakh dispute mid-way through the development of its Caspian Sea oil reserves by Western multinationals. Successful implementation of those multibillion-dollar projects is a key objective of U.S. policy in the South Caucasus. Hence, periodical statements by U.S. officials warning the conflicting parties against ending the decade-long truce in Karabakh.
The outgoing U.S. ambassador to Armenia, John Ordway, described as “extremely low” the likelihood of renewed fighting last February. “We would do everything we can to prevent it from happening,” he said.
And “Zerkalo” itself quoted an unnamed Western diplomat in Baku last week as saying that the Azerbaijani society and army are not prepared for war and that the West does not take its government’s threats seriously.