Samvel Babayan, a former military leader of Nagorno-Karabakh, warned on Tuesday of a growing threat of another Armenian-Azerbaijani war which he said may break out “at any moment.”
“Things are moving towards the war path because Azerbaijan has the impudence to demand everything and refuse to give up anything,” Babayan told a news conference. “This suggests that it is pushing for war.”
“The situation is really dangerous. The war can start at any moment,” he said.
Babayan, who led Karabakh Armenian forces during much of their successful 1991-1994 war with Azerbaijan, claimed that the only factor that has prevented renewed fighting so far is what he called a lack of Azerbaijani self-confidence.
“Azerbaijan realizes that if it restarts the war and fails on the battlefield, it will lose not just 13-20 percent of its territory but maybe 50 percent and that no mediator will be able to stop that,” he said. “Mindful of that, it realizes that it should prepare for the battle very well.”
The remarks contrasted with a statement made by Armenia’s Karabakh-born Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian last week. Ohanian, who was also a wartime Karabakh military commander, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that another war with Azerbaijan is unlikely at this juncture. He earlier dismissed continuing Azerbaijani threats to take back Karabakh and Azerbaijani territories surrounding it by force.
Babayan, who has been based in Yerevan since 2005, again predicted that the Karabakh peace process will remain deadlocked in the years ahead. He also said the international mediators’ recently modified plan to end the Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute favors Azerbaijan and will therefore be rejected by Armenia.
“As far as I know, [President] Serzh Sarkisian will not opt for such mutual concessions,” said Babayan. He claimed that the mediators’ existing proposals are very similar to their 1997 peace plan that called for Armenian withdrawal from occupied Azerbaijani districts and indefinitely delayed agreement on Karabakh’s status.
Then Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrosian was forced by his key ministers and the Karabakh Armenian leadership to resign after advocating that plan.