By Emil Danielyan
A fresh war of words between Armenia and Azerbaijan continued on Friday when official Yerevan angrily rejected Azerbaijani condemnations of the ongoing military exercise and the upcoming local elections in Nagorno-Karabakh.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry said that Azerbaijan is using the two events to “divert attention from its unwillingness to negotiate a lasting peace.” “Whether complaining about Karabakh's peaceful, legal, democratic elections, or whether making disparaging remarks about the people of Nagorno Karabakh and their continued readiness to defend themselves, their families and their property…these statements simply result in a continuation of the atmosphere of distrust and cynicism,” the ministry spokesman, Hamlet Gasparian, said in a statement.
The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry expressed “deep concern” about the ten-day exercise which the Karabakh Armenian forces began on Tuesday. It said the exercises will hamper preparations for the next meeting between the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia.
The two ministers held a series of face-to-face talks in recent months, emerging from them with cautiously optimistic statements about prospects of a peaceful settlement of the Karabakh dispute. But those statements have been overshadowed by the latest bitter exchange between the conflicting parties. It was triggered by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev’s fresh threat to restore Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity by force if the peace process remains deadlocked.
The Armenian government reacted angrily, warning Baku of “disastrous consequences” of renewed fighting and questioning its commitment to peace. But Armenian officials have not commented on an even more bellicose statement attributed to the chief spokesman for Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry. The official, Colonel Ramiz Melikov, was quoted by a leading Azerbaijani daily on Wednesday as saying that Armenia will cease to exist as an independent state and its territory will become part of Azerbaijan “in the next 25-30 years.”
Melikov’s reported prediction has alarmed a leading Armenian-American advocacy group. The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) sent on Thursday letters to the White House and the members of the U.S. Congress urging Washington to denounce the threat.
“We expect our government to forcefully and publicly confront the Azerbaijani government over these patently hateful and destabilizing threats,” the ANCA executive director, Aram Hamparian, said in a statement. “Failure to do so would send extremely dangerous signals to Baku."
(Photolur photo: Hamlet Gasparian.)