Another Armenian-Azerbaijani war for Nagorno-Karabakh is unlikely to break out anytime soon despite the latest upsurge in ceasefire violations in the conflict zone, President Serzh Sarkisian insisted on Friday.
“I cannot say for certain that there will be no hostilities because in our country at least two persons -- the president and the defense minister -- should probably think that hostilities could break out as early as tomorrow,” he said. “But I still do not see a resumption of hostilities in the foreseeable future. However, we will have to fight if we are forced to.”
Speaking at a meeting with officials at the Armenian Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, Sarkisian dismissed Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s regular threats to win back Karabakh and surrounding territories. “If he can [do that,] why doesn’t he do that? And if he is going to do that, why is he [publicly] talking about it?” he said.
Armenia - President Serzh Sarkisian inspects an Armenian army post on the border with Azerbaijan, 31Dec2013.
Sarkisian claimed that Armenia has been strengthening its armed forces is currently engaged in a major military buildup despite having a much smaller defense budget than Azerbaijan. “We are not lagging behind anybody in that regard,” he said. “True, the allocations set in our budget are not very telling, they do not reach billions [of dollars,] but rest assured that our army does not really lack weapons and ammunition.”
Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian likewise insisted on Friday that the ongoing skirmishes along the Karabakh “line of contact” and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border are unlikely to escalate into an all-out war.
Both warring sides have reported a sharp increase in truce violations there since the killing early on Monday of an Armenian soldier in what military authorities in Yerevan and Stepanakert say was an Azerbaijani commando attack on a Karabakh Armenian army outpost. The Azerbaijani military has denied attacking it.
The fighting has affected not only soldiers on both sides but also civilian residents of Armenian and Azerbaijani border villages. A 16-year-old girl in Aygepar, a village in Armenia’s northeastern Tavush province, was wounded in the leg and hospitalized late on Thursday. According to Azerbaijani media, a 37-year-old woman in an Azerbaijani village bordering Tavush suffered a similar injury at around the same time.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry announced on Friday that its warplanes have been ordered to carry out flights in the vicinity of “the line of contact” around Karabakh. It released photographs of Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov inspecting an Azerbaijani Air Force unit.
A spokesman for the Armenian Defense Ministry, Artsrun Hovannisian, scoffed at the reported flights, saying that Azerbaijani jets will become “vulnerable” to Karabakh Armenian air defenses if they approach the frontline. Ohanian likewise asserted that they can pose no serious threat to the Armenian side. “In no other territory of such small size there are so many modern [anti-aircraft] systems,” he told a news conference in Yerevan.