Sarkisian and his leading political opponents heaped praise on the Armenian Armed Forces as the country marked the 18th anniversary of their official establishment. They visited the Yerablur military cemetery in Yerevan to pay their respects to Armenians killed in the 1991-1994 war with Azerbaijan.
“Today the Armenian army is the iron guarantee that ensures our survival and development and is a sobering deterrent against any hot-headed adventure,” Sarkisian said in a written address to the nation dedicated to what is a public holiday called Army Day.
“The author of any provocation must definitely expect serious counterattacks and big surprises from the Armenian army,” he said. “Failure to realize that is at least naivety.”
Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian, who is a prominent war veteran, issued a similar warning earlier this week. He said Armenian forces have significantly beefed up defense fortifications around Karabakh in recent years and are prepared for renewed fighting regularly threatened by Azerbaijan.
Sarkisian visited Yerablur together with other Armenian leaders to lay a wreath at the tomb of Armenia’s first defense minister, the late Vazgen Sarkisian. He also used the occasion to decorate and promote several senior army officers.
“Each of us is visiting Yerablur with pride because we have a victorious army,” Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian told journalists. “We must do everything to have a strong army that is a reliable guarantor of the security of our state and the Armenian people.”
Leaders of the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) also praised the Armenian military after laying flowers at the cemetery later in the day. One of them, Levon Zurabian, said it is one of the few state institutions that has not been criticized by the opposition bloc.
“The army was and is a guarantor of our victories and future security,” Zurabian told RFE/RL. “Our criticism is directed not at the army but these authorities that have done everything to spoil the army and use it for internal political purposes.”
“For me, criticizing the army is like criticizing my father,” said Aram Sarkisian, another HAK leader and a brother of Vazgen. “That is inadmissible and I have never done that.”
The HAK’s top leader, Levon Ter-Petrosian, signed a decree on the formation of the Armed Forces on January 28, 1992 when he served as independent Armenia’s first president.