The Armenian military believes that a new war with Azerbaijani over Nagorno-Karabakh is unlikely to break out soon despite growing ceasefire violations in the conflict zone, Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian said on Friday.
“As a result of evaluating the situation, we have arrived at the conclusion that the likelihood of the resumption of hostilities is low today,” Ohanian told reporters. “Having said that, the armed forces and their leadership exist just for that and are prepared for that.”
Talk of renewed Karabakh war intensified in and outside the region after a recent series of deadly clashes on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and around Karabakh, which left at least a dozen soldiers on both sides dead.
Citing their “exceptional bravery,” President Serzh Sarkisian on Friday gave medals to ten Armenian army officers and soldiers who were apparently involved in those incidents. Four of them -- Zohrab Balabekian, Karen Davtian, Hrach Sargsian and Vartan Ohanian -- were decorated posthumously.
Echoing statements by other Armenian leaders, Ohanian claimed that Azerbaijan provoked the latest upsurge in fighting to heighten pressure on international mediators seeking a peaceful solution to the dispute.
“By means of escalating the situation, they are attempting to influence international structures to speed up the Karabakh peace process,” he said, speaking at the Yerablur military cemetery in Yerevan. “They are also attempting to create an atmosphere of unilateral coercion, so to speak.”
“We have already been in such a situation of coercion before, when we were forced to go war. But we managed to come out of that situation well,” added the minister who played a major role in the 1991-1994 war.
Azerbaijan has blamed the Armenian side for the loss of life.
The United States, Russia and France have expressed serious concern at the recent truce violations which coincided with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to the South Caucasus. In a joint statement last week, the presidents of the three mediating powers urged the conflicting parties to respect the 1994 ceasefire and step up their efforts to agree on a framework peace accord drafted by the mediators.
Visiting Stepanakert on Friday, Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian reiterated that the so-called Madrid Principles of a Karabakh settlement have to be approved by not only Yerevan and Baku but also Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian leadership. The official Armenpress news agency quoted him as making the statement at a meeting with Karabakh President Bako Sahakian.
Nalbandian also announced that the U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-heading the OSCE Minsk Group will start another tour of the conflict zone “within about ten days.”