Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan dismissed Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s latest warnings to Armenia as he visited Nagorno-Karabakh and inspected military facilities there on Friday.
According to the Armenian Defense Ministry, during the two-day visit Tonoyan toured military bases of Karabakh’s Armenian-backed Defense Army and paid “special attention” to new weapons delivered to it recently.
A ministry statement said Tonoyan also discussed with the Defense Army commander, Major-General Jalal Harutiunian, and other local officers “current and possible regional developments.”
The visit came two weeks after unusually heavy fighting that broke out at a section of Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan located hundreds of kilometers west of the Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact” around Karabakh. The situation along the Karabakh frontlines has remained relatively calm in recent weeks.
Aliyev on Thursday again claimed that his troops deal a “crushing blow” to the Armenians during the border clashes which left at least 12 Azerbaijani servicemen, including a general, and five Armenian soldiers dead. “The Armenian armed forces must leave our lands before it’s too late,” he said.
Tonoyan scoffed at this warning in video remarks circulated by his press office. “As defense minister, I would just like to understand ‘before it’s too late’ means when,” he said.
Tonoyan also shrugged off Azerbaijani military officials’ fresh statements to the effect that they are ready to carry out Aliyev’s order to restart war at any moment.
“First of all, it’s not that we don’t wait for such orders,” he said. “Secondly, the hostilities in Tavush [province bordering Azerbaijan] were vivid proof of the fact that although the enemy intensively used state-of-the-art equipment it did not achieve success and suffered many losses instead.”
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has also repeatedly said that Baku cannot force the Armenian side to make unilateral concessions with threats to resolve the Karabakh conflict by force.
Earlier on Friday, the Defense Ministry in Yerevan announced that frontline and other units of the Armenian army have been put on high alert as part of a “sudden check” of their combat readiness ordered by the chief of the army’s General Staff, Lieutenant-General Onik Gasparian. The ministry released several photographs of ballistic missile and long-range artillery systems deployed in various locations.
The check came amid joint Azerbaijani-Turkish military exercises which began in various parts of Azerbaijan on Wednesday. The Armenian military said earlier this week that it will be closely monitoring the exercises widely linked to the recent hostilities on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.
Turkey has blamed Armenia for the fighting and vowed boost military aid to Azerbaijan. Yerevan has responded by accusing the Turkish government of trying to destabilize the region.
Aliyev reportedly thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for Ankara’s “resolute support” to Baku during a phone conversation on Friday.