YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–A new large-scale Armenian-Azerbaijani war is unlikely at this juncture despite Azerbaijan’s continuing threats to take back Nagorno-Karabakh by force, Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian said on Thursday.
“As a defense minister, I must constantly prepare for war but today our analyses and assessments of the situation testify to something else. That is, there are no prerequisites for the resumption of the war,” Ohanian told RFE/RL.
Azerbaijani leaders and President Ilham Aliyev in particular have for years been threatening to resolve the Karabakh conflict by military means if the long-running Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations fail to yield a settlement acceptable to Baku. Azeri Defense Minister Safar Abiyev said late last month that the threat of a “great war” with Armenia is “growing every day.”
Armenia has since been rife with rumors, stoked by some media but denied by the Defense Ministry, that the Armenian and Karabakh armed forces have been put on high alert in anticipation of an Azerbaijani offensive. The speculation has coincided with an ongoing call-up of reservists for military exercises held across the country.
Like other military officials, Ohanian downplayed the drills as “routine” events that have always been organized by the Armenian military. “I believe that if there is a situation where we must fully defend our country then the army will not be alone,” he said. “The army will be with mobilization resources. That is why we pay serious attention to mobilization-readiness under my leadership.”
Ohanian, who was a senior Karabakh Armenian commander and lost a leg during the 1991-1994 war with Azerbaijan, also downplayed recent deadly incidents on the main Armenian-Azerbainani line of contact east of Karabakh as well as Armenia’s long border with Azerbaijan.
“The situation is calm,” he said. “There have always been tense situations on the frontline. By tense situations I mean skirmishes. Also, once in a few years there are attempts by sabotage groups to infiltrate the border. But on the whole, the situation is under control.”