Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian warned Azerbaijan on Monday against attempting to win back Nagorno-Karabakh by force, saying that Armenian troops have significantly beefed up defense fortifications around the disputed territory and are prepared for another war.
“As defense minister, I’m always getting ready for that,” Ohanian said when asked about chances of renewed fighting for Karabakh at a meeting with students and the faculty of Yerevan State University.
“Both the entire army personnel and all of our veteran guys, mobilization resources know that the army command, including the defense minister, would be personally engaged in all hot and tough spots that might, God forbid, emerge on our the borders of our republic and Artsakh (Karabakh) in order to defend our people,” he told them.
Ohanian says the Karabakh Armenian army backed by Armenia proper has in recent years further fortified its positions east and north of the territory in a way that precludes the success of any Azerbaijani offensive. “The Defense Army of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic has created such a system of fortifications which the enemy can not attack and overcome in a classical style,” he said.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev regularly states that Baku will “liberate” Karabakh and Armenian-controlled territories surrounding it if the long-running peace talks with Armenia end in failure. International mediators disapprove of such threats, saying that the Karabakh conflict can not be resolved by military means.
Armenian leaders have repeatedly denounced the war rhetoric. “Such statements show that Azerbaijan is not prepared for mutual concessions in 2010 as well,” Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian told RFE/RL on January 17. He said they also “can not make any impact on or intimidate Armenia or Artsakh.”
Ohanian, who was a senior Karabakh Armenian commander and lost a leg during the 1991-1994 war, likewise insisted that the Azerbaijani leadership would fail to solve the conflict “unilaterally.” He also said Yerevan will never accept a settlement that would place Karabakh back under Azerbaijani rule and strip it of a “common border” with Armenia.