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Ex-Karabakh Army Chief Says Azerbaijan ‘On a War Footing’


Armenia -- Samvel Babayan at a press conference in Yerevan 22Jul2009
A former military leader of Nagorno-Karabakh has warned that renewed hostilities in the disputed region appear a real possibility as “Azerbaijan has been actively preparing for a new war.”

Samvel Babayan, who commanded Karabakh defense forces in the 1991-1994 war with Azerbaijan and then served as the unrecognized republic’s defense minister until 1999, called on Armenian authorities to appreciate the reality that until today Azerbaijan has not been bound by any international document not to resort to military force to resolve the long-running dispute.

To back up his premonition, Babayan referred to Azerbaijan’s cool response to the calls of international mediators to remove snipers from the line of contact, which, he said, revealed Baku’s preparations for military operations.

Karabakh’s former military chief also called on authorities in Stepanakert to engage in the ongoing talks immediately, since, he said, it will be “pointless to negotiate after the basic principles of conflict settlement have been agreed.”

“After the document is submitted, Karabakh cannot negotiate outside its format. And this is called ratification, which will bear a formal nature. This is unacceptable,” said Babayan.

At the same time, Babayan doubted that any agreement on a Karabakh settlement would be possible in the visible future because “Baku’s demands do not reflect the reality.”

“It is a fact that Armenia’s authorities [agree to] give up seven districts [surrounding Karabakh] to Azerbaijan. It has been clear for a long time. The question is whether Azerbaijan is satisfied with that. No, it is not. It wants the whole of Karabakh,” he said. “Our society has been told that a compromise is needed and by saying a compromise we imply territorial concessions. This is wrong.”
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