BAKU -- Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry has rejected as "laughable" a claim by Yerevan that Russia could back Armenia in case of a new conflict over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.
Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian told RFE/RL on August 25 he had "no doubts" that under an agreement signed with Russia last week, Russia would openly support Armenia in the event of a new conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh that "became a threat to the Republic of Armenia."
But Eldar Sabiroglu, the head of the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry press service, on August 26 rejected that claim.
Sabiroglu told ANS-TV that "it is our land and it is occupied by Armenia. The Armenian separatists must be driven out of there at all cost."
Referring to the updated Russian-Armenian agreement, Sabiroglu said: "This agreement is between two states, it is up to them. But this protocol cannot hinder or stop the Azerbaijani Army."
He also said Azerbaijan had no choice but to upgrade its armed forces by acquiring new weaponry.
Nagorno-Karabakh, situated in southwestern Azerbaijan and populated mainly by ethnic Armenians, erupted in ethnic clashes beginning in the late 1980s, prompting a war that left some 30,000 dead. The territory, which declared independence in 1991, remains in dispute despite years of failed efforts by international mediators and a cease-fire has not prevented occasional skirmishes.