Azerbaijan cannot clinch “unilateral” Armenian concessions with its massive arms purchases and regular threats of a military solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian said on Friday.
Ohanian also insisted that the Armenian-Azerbaijani war is unlikely to resume soon despite the ongoing Azerbaijani military buildup fuelled by billions of dollars in oil revenues.
Baku put its increased military might on display during a military parade held on Wednesday. Addressing the troops participating in the parade, President Ilham Aliyev said his country will continue buying more weapons. He said the buildup will eventually allow it to regain control over Karabakh and Armenian-controlled territories surrounding the disputed enclave.
Ohanian said such statements are designed to bolster Aliyev’s domestic political positions and force the Armenian side to make more concessions in long-running negotiations on a Karabakh settlement. “Forcing us to make any unilateral concessions is impossible today,” he told journalists. “We all want this problem to be solved in a political way and in peaceful conditions of mutual understanding. If there is mutual understanding things will move forward little by little.”
Asked about chances of renewed war for Karabakh Ohanian said, “The danger of war always exists for a defense minister. We prepare for war and improve our skills and capabilities every day. But its likelihood today is not very high.”
In his speech, Aliyev stressed the fact that Azerbaijan’s military budget in 2003 was $163 million while now it is $3.7 billion. The figure exceeds Armenia’s entire state budget.
The Azerbaijani leader presided over the parade one week after it emerged that Russia has begun supplying Azerbaijan with hundreds of tanks, armored vehicles and artillery systems worth around $1 billion in accordance with contracts signed two years ago.
Ohanian again downplayed the arms supplies denounced by the Armenian media and some opposition groups. “Military-technical cooperation between Armenia and Russia is at a higher level and we are maintaining the balance in qualitative terms,” he said. He reiterated that Armenia is placing the emphasis on the efficiency of its armed forces and acquisition of long-range weapons in the arms race with Azerbaijan.
Ohanian also confirmed another top Armenian official’s announcement that Russia will soon help the Armenian military enlarge its modest air force. But he gave no details.
The minister talked to the press during an air show held at a military airport just outside Yerevan. The event featured demonstration flights by Armenian warplanes and helicopter gunships.