Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh have successfully repelled Azerbaijan’s military offensive in Karabakh despite having no “powerful sponsors” abroad, President Serzh Sarkisian said on Tuesday.
“Events happening in Artsakh (Karabakh) today are yet another challenge to the Armenian nation which has been imposed on us by the leadership of Azerbaijan this time around,” Sarkisian said during the funeral of Sasun Mkrtchian, one of at least 29 Armenian soldiers killed in Karabakh in recent days.
“I have no doubt that we will overcome it with honor yet again,” he went on. “Blinded by Armenophobia and drunk with the scent of oil, the Azerbaijani authorities do not comprehend that power is not measured by the number of tanks.
“Power is the light which emanates from the new generations in Artsakh and Armenia, and today that light has united us all, made us one iron fist, which will land on the head of the foe threatening our security.”
“I have to state that we have no illusions, we have no powerful sponsors, but we have the sympathy of just people all over the world, and we have everything to defend our homes, our fatherland,” the Karabakh-born president added in a speech delivered at the Yerablur military cemetery in Yerevan.
The remarks coincided with news of an Armenian-Azerbaijani preliminary agreement to halt hostilities along the Karabakh “line of contact.” The leaderships of Armenia and Karabakh insisted that the Azerbaijani offensive launched on Saturday failed to achieve its objectives.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev claimed the opposite on Tuesday, however, again declaring that his troops have scored a victory. “You were wounded in action but won,” he told Azerbaijani soldiers recovering at a military hospital in Baku.
“Sons like you multiply the fatherland’s glory,” Aliyev said. “Military operations conducted by you will be included in military textbooks in the future.”
Karabakh’s Armenian-backed Defense Army insisted, however, that its troops have won back several hilltop positions in northeastern and southeastern Karabakh that were seized by Azerbaijani forces on Saturday.
Armenia’s Defense Ministry echoed that statement. “Right now not a single Armenian settlement or military position is under enemy control,” the ministry spokesman, Artsrun Hovannisian, said.
Both warring sides reported a significant decrease in truce violations in the afternoon. This might explain why a group of Armenian and foreign journalists were allowed to visit a Karabakh Armenian artillery position located just a few kilometers from the frontline. Soldiers there did not fire rounds from their howitzers.
“It will be good if all this ends -- in our favor, that is,” one of them, a sergeant, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
“We got scared a little only when the first two [Azerbaijani] shells landed nearby [on Saturday morning,]” he said. “Then we got used to that.”
“We’ve stood by each other, we’ve saved each other’s lives to deal with this situation,” said another Armenian soldier. Asked what message he would like to convey his family back home, the 20-year-old said: “I hope they take care. We’re OK here. We just have to finish the job.”