The Azerbaijani leadership is ratcheting up tension in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to prevent democratic change in Armenia from spreading to Azerbaijan, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian claimed on Thursday.
“Unfortunately, following the advance of democracy and the democratic revolution in Armenia Azerbaijan has become more aggressive and this aggression is directed not only at Armenia but also democracy in our region,” he told reporters during a visit to Brussels.
Pashinian made a similar point at an ensuing meeting with Latvia’s President Raimonds Vejonis held on the sidelines of a NATO summit in the Belgian capital.“Unfortunately, I saw rising tensions on Nagorno-Karabakh’s borders and along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border immediately after taking over as prime minister,” he said. “I want to stress that any Azerbaijani attack on Armenia would also be an attack on democracy.
“I think that Azerbaijan’s president has certain concerns that democratic processes could spread from Armenia to Azerbaijan, and as far as I understand, they are trying to heighten tensions in order to prevent the democratic wave from moving from Armenia to Azerbaijan.”
“I hope that the international community will send a very strong signal to Baku to the effect that any attempt to escalate the situation in the region, any attempt to start a war would meet with a strong reaction from the international community,” added the Armenian premier.
The Armenian military started accusing Baku of massing troops along “the line of contact” around Karabakh shortly before mass protests led by Pashinian forced Armenia’s former President Serzh Sarkisian to resign in late April. It says that the buildup continued after Pashinian was elected prime minister in early May. The Azerbaijani side has denied that.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev renewed his threats to forcibly win back control over Karabakh when he addressed a military parade in Baku on June 26. “The war is not over. Only its first phase has ended,” he said, threatening military strikes against “strategic” Armenian targets.
The Azerbaijani army held major exercises the following week.
On Wednesday, an Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman condemned Pashinian for approving and promoting his 18-year-old son’s decision to perform compulsory military service in Karabakh. The official, Hikmet Hajiyev, said Pashinian is thus trying to keep his approval ratings high at the expense of regional peace.