Official Yerevan has accused Baku of failing to meet its obligations to an international organization after Azerbaijan launched large-scale war games on Monday.
“Azerbaijan began its military exercises without notifying in advance the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) member states and with a gross violation of its obligations before the organization,” Tigran Balayan, a spokesman for Armenia’s Ministry of Foreign Affair, wrote on Twitter.
Azerbaijan’s five-day war games involving about 25,000 troops and a large number of military hardware come weeks before the country’s early presidential election scheduled for April 11.
The issue of Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian-control region that broke away from Azerbaijan as a result of a war in the early 1990s, is likely to feature prominently during the campaign leading up to the vote in which current President Ilham Aliyev is expected to win his fourth consecutive five-year term.
Military authorities in Azerbaijan do not specify the location of the current war games, only mentioning that they are unfolding “in the difficult conditions of the mountainous terrain.”
Some 250 tanks and other armored vehicles, up to 1,000 artillery units of different calibers, multiple rocket launcher systems and mortars, as well as up to 50 units of army and front-line aircraft are also involved in the exercises, according to Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense.
According to official sources in Azerbaijan, during the exercises “army units will repulse the attack of the conventional enemy and will launch a counteroffensive.”
During the five-day exercises, the Azerbaijani armed forces will also reportedly use a number of new types of weapons recently acquired from Russia, Israel and the Czech Republic.
Responding to the criticism coming from Yerevan regarding the conduct of the exercises, Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman Hikmet Hajiev insisted that the war games taking place “in the sovereign territory of Azerbaijan” correspond to “the OSCE’s Vienna document of 2011”.
In 2017 Azerbaijan conducted several military exercises, causing the wrath of the Armenian side. The largest exercises last year were held in April and involved some 30,000 troops. Those war games came a year after the deadliest Armenian-Azerbaijani fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh since the 1994 ceasefire known as a four-day war.