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Karabakh Army Chief Dismisses Azerbaijani War Threats

Lieutenant-General Movses Hakobian

Lieutenant-General Movses Hakobian

STEPANAKERT -- The top military commander in the breakaway Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh has brushed aside Azerbaijan's continuing threats to take back the disputed region by force, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Lieutenant-General Movses Hakobian said on May 12 that the rhetoric from Baku is mainly for domestic political gain.

"The resumption of the war would be unfavorable only for Azerbaijan," Hakobian told the press at Karabakh army positions east of the Armenian-controlled enclave. "It would be favorable for us because we [will] manage to easily achieve our objectives."

"And I think in that case we would solve the Karabakh-Azerbaijani conflict once and for all," added the general, who played a prominent role in the 1991-1994 war.

Hakobian's remarks were made on the 16th anniversary of the signing of a Russian-mediated, cease-fire agreement that ended the Armenian-Azerbaijani war over Nagorno-Karabakh. His statements echo those made by Armenian leaders recently.

President Serzh Sarkisian said earlier this year that an Azerbaijani assault on Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh would trigger "serious counterattacks." Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian similarly stated in January that Armenian forces have significantly beefed up fortifications around Karabakh in recent years and are prepared for renewed fighting.

Hakobian said the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic's army has received new military hardware and ammunition this year. "[We] have had quite a serious success in acquiring air-defense systems," he said.

Colonel-General Mikael Harutiunian, Armenia's chief military inspector and former defense minister, has been in Karabakh in recent days to visit frontline positions. He told journalists in Stepanakert on May 12 that "the Karabakh army is combat ready."

Azerbaijani leaders have long warned they will resort to military action over Nagorno-Karabakh if the long-running Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations fail to yield a settlement acceptable to Baku. Azerbaijani Defense Minister Safar Abiyev spoke in late February of the growing likelihood of "a great war" with Armenia.

The truce signed in 1994 has largely held and has left Armenian forces in control of virtually all of Nagorno-Karabakh and large parts of surrounding territory in Azerbaijan proper.