Stepanakert Warns any effort thwart airport operations will mean “war.”
YEREVAN, STEPANAKERT (Combined Sources)—The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Airport will begin operations in “coming days,” the spokesperson of Armenia’s Civil Aviation Department, Nelly Cherchinyan announced Wednesday, according to Armenpress News Agency.
The Stepanakert Airport has gone through a massive renovation and meets all international standards. It’s opening, however, has been delayed several times, with Azerbaijan threatening to down passenger planes traveling to the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic capital.
The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s Presidential spokesperson David Babayan warned that any attempt to hinder the operation of the airport or shooting down of passenger planes with have grave consequences, reported Armenpress.
“If Azerbaijan tries in any way to hinder the operation of the Stepanakert Airport or shoot down our civil airplanes, it will mean war,” said Babayan.
The presidential spokesperson called Baku’s continued threats to shoot down civilian aircraft as part of Baku’s “Fascist policy.”
“For the international community, this approach is unacceptable. The airport will function in accordance to the international rights and norms, as the people have the right to travel freely,” explained Babayan, who added that the Stepanakert Airport has been outfitted with up-to-date equipment on par with international standards.
The Airport of Stepanakert was built in 1974 and received flights mainly from Yerevan and Baku. From 1992 the Airport was idle. In 2008 the construction of the new main building of the Airport was launched, which resembles an eagle with opened wings. Within this period of time the runway as well has been widened and the peaks of some hills adjacent to the runway have been evened, so that the flights of modern aircraft would be possible.
As early as July, Azerbaijan continued to threaten to shoot down civilian aircraft.
The Azerbaijani State Civil Aviation Administration said that the planned Yerevan-Stepanakert flights would constitute an “invasion” of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized airspace and that “taking corresponding measures in connection with that is inevitable.”
“According to international norms, Azerbaijan has sovereign rights to its airspace,” a spokesman for the government body told the APA news agency. “Those who enter that airspace without permission shall be considered to have breached the air borders.”
The Azerbaijani government first voiced such threats, in more explicit terms, early last year when authorities in Karabakh announced the impending reconstruction of the territory’s sole airport located near Stepanakert. Baku seemed to have backed away from the threats in April 2011 after being criticized by mediating powers.
The launch of first commercial flights to and from Karabakh in two decades has been repeatedly postponed since then, even though the airport’s reconstruction was essentially completed by the end of 2011. Also, a newly established Karabakh airline reportedly acquired two aircraft for Yerevan-Stepanakert flights earlier this year. An official in Stepanakert told RFE/RL in June that the flight service is likely to be launched before the end of this summer.