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Armenian President Meets Army Chiefs In Karabakh

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian (front left) visits a Karabakh Armenian army unit on January 3.

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian (front left) visits a Karabakh Armenian army unit on January 3.

STEPANAKERT -- Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian inspected military facilities in the breakaway Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh and met with Karabakh Armenian army commanders during a visit that ended today, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Sarkisian began the three-day trip with a tour of army units deployed in Karabakh's southeastern Martuni district, near the heavily fortified "line of contact" separating them from Azerbaijani troops.

Accompanied by Bako Sahakian, leader of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR), Sarkisian watched shooting exercises on January 3 held at a training center of the NKR army involving special army forces and snipers.

Sarkisian, who commanded Karabakh Armenian forces in 1992-1993, met with the army's top brass in Stepanakert later on January 4.

Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian, another former Karabakh army chief, was also in attendance.

Official Armenian and NKR sources reported no details of the meeting. Sarkisian, who wore a military uniform during the visit, made no public statements.

While in Karabakh, Sarkisian also inaugurated a newly reconstructed military hospital and a new residential complex in Stepanakert that will mainly house families of military personnel and veterans of the 1991-94 war with Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan, meanwhile, condemned Sarkisian's visit as a "provocation."

"All international organizations and countries of the world support Azerbaijan's territorial integrity," Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman Elman Abdullayev told on January 4. "Such actions and provocations show the true face of Serzh Sarkisian."

Abdullayev said Azerbaijan will eventually regain control of Nagorno-Karabakh and the Armenian-controlled territories around it.

Sarkisian warned Baku against seeking a military solution to the Karabakh conflict during his previous trips to the disputed region. He insisted in August that Azerbaijan cannot gain a decisive military advantage over Armenia and will eventually come to terms with Armenian control over Karabakh.

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