Nagorno-Karabakh’s top military commander on Wednesday brushed aside Azerbaijan’s continuing threats to win back the disputed region by force and said his forces have received new weaponry in recent months.
Lieutenant-General Movses Hakobian issued the warning on the 16th anniversary of the signing of a Russian-mediated ceasefire agreement that the stopped the Armenian-Azerbaijani war. The truce, which has largely held since then, left Armenian forces in control of virtually all of Karabakh and surrounding lands in Azerbaijan proper.
Hakobian said the Azerbaijani war rhetoric is mainly directed at the domestic public for political purposes. He claimed that Baku will suffer a crushing defeat if it attempts to resolve the conflict by force.
“The war’s resumption would be unfavorable only for Azerbaijan,” Hakobian told an improvised news conference held on Karabakh army positions east of the Armenian-controlled enclave. “It would be favorable for us because we manage to easily achieve our objectives.”
“And I think in that case we would solve the Karabakh-Azerbaijani conflict once and for all,” added the general, who played a prominent role in the 1991-1994 war.
The self-confident remarks echoed statements repeatedly made by Armenia’s leaders. President Serzh Sarkisian said earlier this year that an Azerbaijani assault on Armenia and Karabakh would trigger “serious counterattacks.” Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian similarly stated in January that Armenian forces have significantly beefed up defense fortifications around Karabakh in recent years and are prepared for renewed fighting.
Hakobian told journalists that the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s Defense Army has received new military hardware and ammunition this year. “This year, we have had quite a serious success in acquiring air-defense systems,” he said. “We have also acquired new weapons and military hardware.
“That process will be continuous … We are also trying to change the fleet of army vehicles,” he added without elaboration.
Colonel-General Mikael Harutiunian, Armenia’s chief military inspector and former defense minister, has been in Karabakh for the past several days, visiting frontline positions and examining troops stationed there. “The Karabakh army is combat-ready,” Harutiunian told journalists in Stepanakert on Wednesday.
Azerbaijani leaders have for years been warning that they will try the military option if the long-running Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations yield no settlement acceptable to Baku. Defense Minister Safar Abiyev spoke in late February of the growing likelihood of “a great war” with Armenia.