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Sarkisian Hits Back At Aliyev's 'Anti-Armenian Slur'

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev (left) and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan
YEREVAN/BAKU -- President Serzh Sarkisian continued the war of words with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev after he said "something is missing" in the brains of Armenian leaders, RFE/RL's Armenian and Azerbaijani services report.

Aliyev made the remark at a news conference with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Baku on July 27.

Sarkisian promptly hit back: "Was that a statement by a normal person, let alone a head of state?" he said at a press conference in Yerevan on July 28 with visiting Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski.

The verbal battle between Azerbaijan and Turkey on the one hand, and Armenia on the other, began at a meeting in Yerevan on July 23 between Sarkisian and young people.

Sarkisian was asked whether Armenia will ever regain control of territories in Turkey -- including Mount Ararat -- that were once controlled by Armenians.

"That will depend on you and your generation...each generation has its responsibilities and they should be discharged with honor," Sarkisian replied.

The comment angered Turkish officials.

An Elephant Should Not Be Compared With An Ant.

At a press conference in Baku with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Erdogan said on July 27 that Sarkisian's comments "do not befit a statesman or a president. A statesman should not fill youth with hatred.... Sarkisian has made a serious mistake. He has directly confirmed a historical mistake he has made. He should apologize for it and correct it."

Aliyev interjected that he expected such comments from Sarkisian "because I have met him several times." Erdogan, for his part, said he does not know Sarkisian well.

"I know his way of thinking.... They think they have settled the [dispute over the breakaway Azerbaijani region of]Nagorno-Karabakh," Aliyev said. "But they are mistaken. Nagorno-Karabakh is Azerbaijan's land. The time will come when Azerbaijan will restore its sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh either through peace or war."

Aliyev added that "making territorial claims on a large country like Turkey indicates that something is missing in these people's minds. They don't live in the real world; they live in their make-believe world. They should wake up from that dream, return to the real world, and at least compare themselves with Turkey. An elephant should not be compared with an ant."

He also said that Armenia would collapse if it didn't receive foreign aid.

'Russian Outpost'

Political analyst Ilqar Mammadov told RFE/RL on July 28 that when Azerbaijani officials, including the president, predict that Armenia will collapse as a state, they are mistaken.

"Nobody will let Armenia collapse," he said. "If we see a deterioration in the economy and a decline in the population, we should also note Russia's major economic growth.... Even if only 100,000 people lived in Armenia, Russia would protect it as it regards Armenia as its outpost."

On other issues, Aliyev said in Baku on July 27 that Azerbaijani companies have invested over $4 billion in the Turkish economy and will invest a further $6 billion in the petrochemical industry in the next few years.

Erdogan implied that Azerbaijan and Turkey have reached an agreement on the second stage of exploitation of the Shah Deniz Caspian gas field. He did not provide details.

Turkish media had recently quoted officials from Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR as saying talks on Shah Deniz were bogged down over the issue of legal jurisdiction.

Read more in Azeri here