President Serzh Sarkisian inspected new facilities of Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenian-backed army and monitored its latest major exercises during a weekend trip to the disputed territory.
The exercises held just southeast of Karabakh reportedly involved more than a thousand soldiers, dozens of tanks, armored vehicles and artillery systems as well as what an Armenian military official called a major “new type of weapon.” They simulated defensive and counteroffensive operations in the presence of a Sarkisian, Defense Minister Vigen Sargsian and Armenia’s top army general, Movses Hakobian.
“I am grateful to you,” a uniform-clad Sarkisian told the participating troops. “You have proved your skills with today’s exercises. Rest assured that you are thereby responding to those who want to take away our homeland and try to demonstrate their might and wrest something from us.”
“We can and we will defend our borders, we can and we will defend our homeland,” he said in a speech.
The war games were held the day after Sarkisian met with the top brass of the Karabakh Defense Army in Stepanakert. He was briefed on the current situation along the Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact” around Karabakh. It has been relatively calm in recent weeks.
In a separate statement released on Monday, the Karabakh Armenian army said Sarkisian also visited a number of its unspecified facilities and familiarized himself with “novelties created with the aim of countering the enemy in a more effective manner.” It did not elaborate.
Sarkisian travelled to Karabakh less than a week before planned fresh talks between the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers. They will try to build on some progress that was reportedly made at Sarkisian’s most recent meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev held in Geneva on October 16.
Right after that summit, Sarkisian and Aliyev pledged to intensify the Karabakh peace process and bolster the ceasefire regime in the conflict zone. The U.S., Russian and French mediators announced in the Swiss city that they will soon hold follow-up “working sessions” with the two foreign ministers.