ASTARA–Azerbaijan (AFP/Armepress)–Azeri President Ilham Aliyev said Tuesday that a peace agreement on regulating the Mountainous Karabagh conflict could not be signed unless Azeri territories are first liberated. "The conflict cannot be resolved unless Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity is restored in full," he said.
He also announced defense spending in Azerbaijan would grow by nearly one third in 2005–after Armenia unveiled plans to significantly boost its own military budget.
Aliyev was visiting the southern regions of Azerbaijan.
"Our parliament is discussing next year’s budget–where spending will grow by 25 to 30 percent–and this includes military spending," Aliyev told reporters in Astara.
Aliyev’s commen’s followed a proposal made Monday by Armenia’s parliament to raise defense spending by 20 percent to 99 million dollars in 2005.
During his visit to the small seaside city Lenkoran located near the Southern border with Iran–Aliyev boasted–"If we see that that negotiations and international efforts are unproductive–then we can resort to ways to resolve the conflict."
According to a finance ministry source–Azerbaijan’s military spending in 2004 amounted to just under 150 million dollars.