Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian says his country will recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as independent if Azerbaijan uses force to resolve their dispute over the region.
The dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh has escalated in recent years, with Azerbaijan saying it is losing patience with negotiations and threatening to take back the region by force.
Sarkisian was speaking on December 10 after a meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Russian-led security bloc of former Soviet republics, in Moscow.
"Armenia is categorically against a military resolution of the problem. In the event Azerbaijan unleashes a new military venture, Armenia will have no other choice but to recognize de jure the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh and provide for the safety of its population through all means," Sarkisian said.
His comments come just weeks after he promised to deal a "devastating and final" blow to Azerbaijan should it launch an attack against Nagorno-Karabakh, which in the early 1990s broke away from Azerbaijani rule with the support of Armenia as the Soviet Union collapsed. Nagorno-Karabakh is not recognized by any country.
Armenia's ruling party nonetheless rejected on December 9 an opposition motion in parliament to recognize the region as independent, saying it was still too soon.
Nagorno-Karabakh has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces since a 1994 truce ended a war that killed an estimated 30,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands.
Sporadic clashes along its boundaries that have killed around 3,000 people since 1994 have intensified over the past two years.
Oil-rich Azerbaijan has added credence to its threats of military action by spending heavily on its army -- its 2011 budget includes a 90-percent hike in military spending.
A military assault by Azerbaijan or Armenia's recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh would seriously undermine efforts by the United States, Russia, and France to find a peaceful settlement to the conflict.
Mediators from the three countries have brokered negotiations between Azerbaijan and Armenia since 1992 under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
with agency reports