Azerbaijan will not dare to pursue a military solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict any time soon, President Serzh Sarkisian said on Friday at the end of what he described as biggest ever Armenian military exercises.
Sarkisian heaped praise on tens thousands of soldiers that have reportedly practiced military operations in and around Karabakh for the past nine days.“You have demonstrated strong combat skills, a strong will and devotion to the homeland,” he told some of the participating troops lined up at a shooting range east of the disputed territory.
Sarkisian, who wore a military uniform, addressed them on the second day of his latest visit to Karabakh during which he oversaw the exercises organized by the closely integrated armed forces of Armenia and Karabakh. According to the military authorities in Yerevan and Stepanakert, the drills involved some 47,000 soldiers and hundreds of tanks, armored personnel carriers and artillery systems. Armenian state television showed some of those tanks and helicopter gunships firing live rounds at nearby hills during an offensive operation simulated by the military.
“Your professionalism is making many naïve people living in Azerbaijan change their views about war,” Sarkisian said in his speech. “They thought that fighting against Karabakh and Armenia would be a short and pleasant pastime. Something like a flash mob.”
“No, there will be no flash mobs,” he went on.“There will be no fun and no walkover. I am sure that there will be no war either because you are, because you are strong, and because you are standing here.”
Sarkisian has repeatedly said in the past that Azerbaijan has not gained a strategic military advantage over its Armenian adversary despite a massive military buildup financed by its oil revenues. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev regularly threatens to forcibly win back Karabakh and surrounding Armenian territories.
The latest Armenian exercises took place just a few dozen kilometers from a section of “the line of contact” where Azerbaijani forces shot down on Wednesday an Armenian combat helicopter taking part in the drills. The incident raised fresh fears of another Armenian-Azerbaijani war.
Sarkisian stressed that the helicopter downing did not disrupt the war games. “We all remember everything and the day of reckoning will come,” he said without elaborating.