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Armenian FM Deems Baku 'Responsible' For Karabakh Fighting

Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian

Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian

YEREVAN -- Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian has claimed the international community holds Azerbaijan primarily responsible for the latest upsurge in cease-fire violations around the breakaway Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

The U.S., Russian, and French mediators acting under the aegis of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Union had deplored last week's deadly fighting in the northeastern part of Karabakh.

Yet neither the mediators nor the EU explicitly blamed either side for the most serious armed incident on the Armenian-Azerbaijani "line of contact" in more than two years. They urged both sides to exercise restraint and seek a peaceful solution to the Karabakh dispute.

But Nalbandian insisted on June 25 in Yerevan that such statements are "primarily addressed to Azerbaijan."

"In contacts with us, those making such statements, especially after the latest incident, are telling us, 'You can clearly see to whom our statements are addressed,'" he said at a news conference with Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindeleger.

Nalbandian stressed at the same time that Yerevan expects a more "clear-cut stance" from the international community on the Karabakh clash as well as Azerbaijan's regular threats to resolve the conflict by force.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev again warned on June 24 that his troops will try to win back the disputed region and the Azerbaijani districts surrounding it if long-running peace talks with Armenia do not yield an agreement acceptable to Baku.

Speaking to Azerbaijani soldiers at the at the end of what the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry called large-scale military exercises held in an undisclosed location from June 21-24, Aliyev praised the country's military capacity and said the level of professionalism as well as the "moral and combat abilities of the army" are growing.

June 24 also marked the 92nd anniversary of the establishment of Azerbaijan's armed forces.

Azerbaijan's defense budget has increased thirteenfold since 2003, when Aliyev became president. Baku will spend some $2.15 billion on its military this year.

Aliyev also blamed Karabakh Armenian forces for not withdrawing from Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding territories they control in Azerbaijan.

"There are resolutions and decisions by international organizations," he said, "but the occupier ignores them."

Aliyev added that "we are ready to continue negotiations, if they bring results, or we may choose the other option. We have to be ready for any option. Azerbaijan has been displaying a constructive position for more than 20 years. But for how long do we have to wait?"

Aliyev's appearance at the military exercises follows a June 21 incident in which one Azerbaijani and four Armenian servicemen were killed in a skirmish on the "line of contact" separating Karabakh Armenian and Azerbaijani troops.

At the same time, a top Armenian security official today dismissed speculation on June 25 that an armed conflict with Azerbaijan is imminent.

"We are now prepared for any scenario, but do not support artificial rumors circulating in our society that war is imminent," said Artur Baghdasarian, the secretary of Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian's National Security Council.