YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Azerbaijan appeared to have backed away on Friday from its threats shoot down planes using a new airport in Nagorno-Karabakh, which have been condemned by Armenia and mediating powers.
“Azerbaijan did not and will not use force against civil facilities, unlike Armenia, which has earned notoriety for terror and war against the civilian population,” Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman Elkhan Polukhov told local news agencies.
Polukhov was responding to Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian’s Thursday comments on the threats voiced by senior Azerbaijani officials recently. One of them warned of “the physical destruction of airplanes landing in that territory” without Baku’s permission.
Sarkisian said he will defy the threats by boarding the first commercial flight from Yerevan to Stepanakert in two decades, which is scheduled for May 9. The flight will be timed to coincide with the official reopening of Karabakh’s sole airport closed in 1991.
Sarkisian’s statement was condemned by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s chief foreign policy aide. “This may be a provocation on the part of Armenia,” the official, Novruz Mammadov, told 1news.az. “Some foreign diplomats in Baku are of the same opinion.”
“At the same time, Azerbaijan is also not sitting idly by and is closely monitoring Armenia’s actions,” he said. Baku “will never come to terms with this state of affairs,” he added without elaborating.
Mammadov also criticized the international community for its reaction to the matter, saying that it amounts to “application of double standards.” He accused “international organizations and countries forming the world order” of disregarding Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized sovereignty over Karabakh.
The United States, Russia and France have denounced the threats to shoot down Karabakh plane as “unacceptable” through their diplomats co-chairing the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Asbarez Note: While Polukhov and Mammadov made their official statements, PanArmenian.net is reporting that several Azeri political parties and public organizations are urging the government to adhere to its threats and shoot down the plane, with Armenia’s president onboard.
“The Azerbaijani side must destroy the plane to express its protest against the Yerevan-Stepanakert flight,” Umid party leader Igbal Agazadeh announced.
The leader of a group calling itself the Karabakh Liberation Organization leader, Akif Nagi, said Azerbaijan is fully entitled to shoot down planes, which violate Azeri airspace.