BAKU—Azerbaijan’s defense minister claimed that his country’s armed forces possess anti-missile weapons with the capability to shoot down the Russian-made Iskander missile system, which Armenia added to its arsenal last year.
“As defense minister, I declare that we have a system that can shoot down these missiles. We have 50 times more missiles. I fully stand by my words. Imagine the response strike on the infrastructure and military targets [of Armenia], if they [Armenian Armed Forces] decide to use them [the missiles!?” Zakir Hasanov, the Azerbaijani defense minister told the Russian RIA-Novosti in an interview published Wednesday.
Yerevan acquired the Iskander missile system from Russia, which delivered it as part of a larger sale of weapons to Armenia financed through a $200,000 loan from the Moscow.
Armenia is the only country in the region, with the exception of Russia, to have the powerful Iskander missile system, which reportedly has a range of 300 kilometers of precision with deadly consequences.
Hasanov told RIA-Novosti that the anti-missile system he referenced was not purchased from Russia, although Azerbaijan is considering the purchase more weapons from Russia, which just last month completed delivery of more arms to Baku as part of sales agreement with that country. Russia has also sold around $5 billion worth of tanks, artillery systems and other weapons to Azerbaijan in line with defense contracts signed in 2009-2011.
“We’re considering buying several more kinds of weapon. The purchase of arms is a multifaceted issue. On one hand, we have to avoid templates, one the other hand, diversity of weapons brings new challenges in their use. This is a rather complicated issue,” he said.
Hasanov noted that the contract on the delivery of Russian tanks, Smerch multiple rocket launchers and Msta-S self-propelled howitzers to Azerbaijan is 90-percent complete and paid for.
“The contract has already been fulfilled by almost 90 percent. We paid for it. There are little things left. Everything has long been used in Azerbaijan and successfully applied. All these are modern weapons that we have mastered and are using,” he said.
Hasanov also said that Azerbaijan remained committed to finding peaceful resolution to the conflict, but quickly saying that use of force was an option if talks don’t yield the necessary results.
“However, it does not mean that the negotiations can last for good. We don’t need negotiations for the sake of negotiations. Look around and you will see international law no longer works. Everyone leans on the option of force. Of course, we must react to this,” he added.