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Armenian President Says Azerbaijan Preparing For War


Armenian President Says Azerbaijan Is Preparing For War
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Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian has accused Azerbaijan of preparing for war over Nagorno-Karabakh, the Armenian-controlled separatist territory inside Azerbaijan.

In an interview in Yerevan with the Reuters news agency, Sarkisian said Azerbaijan’s government has been acquiring what he called a “horrendous quantity” of arms to prepare for new fighting.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been in conflict for more than two decades over Nagorno-Karabakh, with a fragile cease-fire in place since 1994.

"Now, 18 years after the signing of this cease-fire agreement, Azerbaijan threatens us with a new war," Sarkisian said.

Sarkisian accused Azerbaijanis of having hatred toward Armenians and a “general xenophobia.” He said, however, that Armenia still hopes for a negotiated settlement that would end the conflict between the neighboring Caucasus states peacefully.

“When I say that there is hatred towards Armenians, a general xenophobia in Azerbaijan; when I say there is a dangerous accumulation of armaments in Azerbaijan; when I say Azerbaijan is getting prepared for resuming military hostilities and settling the conflict by military means, that doesn't mean at all that there is no need to continue with negotiations," Sarkisian said.

The self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh has not been recognized by any country.

Ties between Armenia and Azerbaijan were recently aggravated after Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev pardoned a soldier who had been sentenced to life in prison in Hungary for murdering an Armenian officer in 2004.

The officer was pardoned immediately after he was sent back to Azerbaijan from imprisonment in Hungary.

European Union member Hungary says it returned the soldier to Azerbaijan after receiving assurances his life sentence would be enforced. Azerbaijan says the pardon was in line with the law and has rejected international criticism over the situation.

In the interview, Sarkisian said the pardon of the Azerbaijani officer showed Nagorno-Karabakh -- a region of about 160,000 people -- could never be part of Azerbaijan.

Several soldiers from both Armenia and Azerbaijan were reported killed in a series of incidents along the Azerbaijan-Armenia border and the Nagorno-Karabakh border this summer.

Russia, France and the United States have led years of mediation under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, to try to resolve the dispute. But there have been no direct contacts between Armenia and Azerbaijan since the controversy over the pardon of the Azerbaijani soldier.

Based on reporting by Reuters

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