The Azerbaijani army will step up its “strikes” against Armenian forces in an effort to restore Azerbaijan’s control over Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding Armenian-controlled districts, Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov said on Tuesday.
“Our armed forces are carrying out devastating strikes against the enemy, as a result of which the enemy is suffering numerous casualties,” Hasanov said as he inaugurated new army barracks in an unpublicized location.
“We will carry out even more devastating strikes against the enemy,” he added, according to Azerbaijani news agencies. “The enemy will then feel the might of the Azerbaijani armed forces with greater pain. Our objective is to deal devastating blows to the enemy and chase it away from our lands. We will now be doing that in an even tougher fashion.”
The remarks followed a fresh upsurge in fighting along “the line of contact” around Karabakh and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border increasingly involving mortars and other heavy weaponry. Several soldiers on both sides have been killed there since the beginning of this month.
Tensions on the frontline escalated even after a December 3 statement by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov urging the conflicting parties “in the strongest possible terms” to respect the ceasefire regime.
The Armenian military said last week that an Azerbaijani tank fired live rounds on its frontline positions near Karabakh for the first time since 1994. Its representatives insist that Baku will not achieve any military objectives despite ratcheting up the tensions.
In recent days, the military has released, through unofficial channels, drone footage that purportedly shows several Azerbaijani army bases located near the Karabakh frontline coming under intense Armenian mortar fire. Some of those facilities sustained heavy damage as a result.
The U.S., Russian and French mediators hope that the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan will defuse the tensions at their face-to-face meeting expected later this month.No dates and venues for the meeting have been announced yet.