President Serzh Sarkisian lashed out at Azerbaijan and Turkey and called for international recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh’s independence in an unusually strongly-worded speech delivered in Yerevan on Tuesday.
He said Armenia must be prepared for renewed war in Nagorno-Karabakh “at any moment” because of what he called “Armenophobic, fascist and bellicose policies” pursued by the Azerbaijani leadership.
Sarkisian addressed senior central and local government officials, lawmakers and judges as well as the top army brass during an unprecedented meeting held at the Armenian Defense Ministry one week before the official start of campaigning for next month’s presidential election.
The official purpose of the meeting reported by the presidential press office was to discuss the results of major exercises held by the Armenian military last year and broader security issues. Sarkisian commented on those drills but spoke about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and Turkish-Armenian relations in greater detail.
“The main aim of our foreign policy is to finally formalize our victory in the aggressive war that was unleashed against Artsakh (Karabakh) by Azerbaijan,” he declared. “The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic must be recognized by the international community because there is no logical reason why a people that exercised and then defended, in an unequal struggle, its legal right to self-determination must ever be part of Azerbaijan.”
Sarkisian condemned Baku’s regular threats to forcibly win back Karabakh and “monstrous” anti-Armenian statements made by Azerbaijani leaders. “As a result, the people of Azerbaijan will not be prepared for a peaceful co-existence [with the Armenians] for a long time, even if an agreement to peacefully end the conflict is reached,” he said.
“We must be prepared every day and at any moment for a new military adventure by a regime propagating war,” he added, expressing confidence that the Armenian side can give “a worthy response to any challenge.”
The Armenian leader, who is seeking a second term in the February 18 election, went on to criticize Turkey for “unconditionally supporting Baku’s anti-Armenian policy” and trying to “clinch unilateral concessions from Armenia.” And he again accused Ankara of walking away from the 2009 Turkish-Armenian agreements to normalize bilateral ties.
Sarkisian further stated that it is incumbent on Turkey to officially recognize the 1915 massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide. “I think that without Turkey’s sincere repentance and the elimination of consequences of the Genocide Armenia’s secure existence in the region will remain endangered,” he said.
In his extensive speech, Sarkisian also reaffirmed Armenia’s national security priorities. He referred to close military ties with Russia as the cornerstone of Yerevan’s security doctrine while reiterating support for “close and transparent cooperation” with NATO.