President Serzh Sarkisian has travelled to Nagorno-Karabakh and inspected a number of local businesses one month after an upsurge in deadly fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani troops stationed around the territory.
Sarkisian arrived in Karabakh on Sunday morning and spent the next two days visiting two textile factories in Stepanakert and a vegetable oil refinery in a village in the southeastern Martuni district. He and Bako Sahakian, the Karabakh president, also inaugurated on Monday a newly rebuilt school in another village located in northwestern Karabakh.
A statement by Sarkisian’s office said the Armenian leader will head to the Karabakh town of Shushi (Shusha) later in the day to attend the official opening of a geology museum. He will also be present at a late-night open-air opera performance in Shushi dedicated to the 23rd anniversary of the Karabakh Armenians’ declaration of independence from Azerbaijan, which will be marked on Tuesday.
The statement did not specify whether Sarkisian, who was born in Karabakh and led its forces during the 1991-1994 war with Azerbaijan, will visit “the line of contact” east and north of the territory or Karabakh Armenian army bases. He frequently inspected them during his previous trips to Karabakh.
Sarkisian’s latest trip comes just one month after a sharp increase in ceasefire violations along “the line of contact” and Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan, which left at least 16 Azerbaijani and 6 Armenian soldiers dead. Each conflicting side blamed the other for the escalation that raised the specter of another full-blown Armenian-Azerbaijani war.
Tensions in the conflict zone have eased dramatically since Sarkisian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev met in Sochi on August 10 for talks mediated by their Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. Speaking after those talks, Sarkisian portrayed the outcome of the recent fighting as a serious setback for the Azerbaijani army which showed that Baku has not gained superiority over the Armenians despite massive arms acquisitions.
Sarkisian stuck to this line as he visited a pro-government youth camp in an Armenian resort town on August 23. He claimed that Azerbaijan’s heavy combat casualties thwarted Aliyev’s plans to “blackmail” the Armenian side with war threats at Sochi.
Aliyev claimed the opposite during an August 27 visit to Beylagan, an Azerbaijani district east of the Karabakh frontline. He said that “on the contrary the Azerbaijani position was voiced even more strongly in Sochi” thanks to the Azerbaijani army’s “crushing blow to the enemy.”