By Emil Danielyan
Armenia dismissed over the weekend Azerbaijan’s stated plans to use multimillion-dollar proceeds from its soaring oil exports for a massive military buildup, with Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian saying that the Azerbaijanis will always lack the motivation to win back Nagorno-Karabakh.
Oskanian, preparing for crucial talks with his Azerbaijani counterpart, also reiterated his belief that the international community has come to terms with Armenian control over Karabakh.
“They can neither seduce nor, worse, scare us with their oil,” he said in a written statement. “Armenia always has the ability to militarily counter any Azerbaijani military budget. In fact, the advantage that Armenians have over Azerbaijan is not in military expenditures or arms, but in the justness of the cause.”
“Armenians believe that the Nagorno-Karabakh cause is just, and in case of war, they will be fighting for their own homes and land. This is not what the Azerbaijanis did or would do,” he claimed.
The statement came in response to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev’s pledge to further boost his country’s military budget which is projected to grow by 70 percent to $300 million this year. Aliev said in a speech last Tuesday that increases in Azerbaijani military spending will eventually force the Armenians to make more concessions on Karabakh
“It would be better for Azerbaijan to compete not militarily, but engage in healthy economic and political competition,” said Oskanian. “And in those realms, today, Azerbaijan is far from challenging Armenia or even Nagorno-Karabakh.”
The chief of the Armenian army staff, Colonel-General Mikael Harutiunian, also brushed aside Aliev’s threats on Monday. "I think they ought to invest that money in the socio-economic development of their country and people who are poor and starving,” he told the Arminfo news agency.
Harutiunian also warned that the Armenian side "will not stay idle" either. "We are also preparing and although we are not going to invest big money, we will invest enough," he said without elaborating.
The latest round of the Armenian-Azerbaijani war of words comes on the eve of Aliev’s talks in Russia with President Robert Kocharian which international mediators say could mark a turning point in their long-running efforts to broker a solution to the Karabakh dispute. Oskanian and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov will meet in Moscow on Wednesday to prepare for those talks.
Speaking to journalists in Baku on Friday, Aliev said although the conflicting parties have made serious progress towards a peaceful settlement there are still “serious differences” between them. He claimed that they have been discussing a “step-by-step” peace accord that would indefinitely delay agreement on Karabakh’s status.
But Oskanian denied this, saying that the Armenian side is only ready to accept a “package” deal that “may be implemented in stages.” He also said the international community is “assessing the situation more realistically” than Azerbaijan. “The international trend regarding conflicts -- East Timor, developments around Kosovo, the Sudan Agreement -- all these developments demonstrate that the international community today is leaning towards greater respect for the right of peoples to self-determination,” he said.