STEPANAKERT (RFE/RL)—President Serzh Sarkisian said the armed forces of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh maintain superiority over their Azeri counterpart as he ended a two-day inspection of Karabakh Armenian military bases and frontline positions on Thursday.
“We have really combat-ready armed forces, unlike some countries in the region that have vast groups of armed people. And these are different things,” a uniform-clad Sarkisian told Karabakh state television in an undisclosed section of the main Armenian-Azeri line of contact.
It was a clear reference to Azerbaijan’s army that has enjoyed a massive increase in government spending on defense over the past year. Azeri President Ilham Aliyev regularly states that it is now strong enough to win back Karabakh and Armenian-controlled territories in Azerbaijan proper that surround the disputed enclave.
“I just can’t imagine how you can speak of troops’ combat-readiness and morale while strolling on the parquet [hardwood] floor of your office,” Sarkisian said in what might have been another jibe at his Azerbaijani counterpart. “I find such visits extremely important.”
“The current condition of combat detachments, their armaments, combat spirit and morale allow me to firmly conclude that our armed forces in this particular section are ready to accomplish objectives set for them,” added the former wartime commander of Karabakh Armenian forces.
Sarkisian spent the second day of his trip visiting more frontline positions and watching small-scale military exercises together with Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian and Karabakh President Bako Sahakian. He also conducted what his press office described as a broader “monitoring of the defense district.”
Sarkisian also chided Aliyev for emphasizing Armenian withdrawal from the so-called “occupied” territories and overlooking other principles of the Karabakh settlement in his public pronouncements on Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations He also warned the Azerbaijani side against seeking to “get everything it wants” from the peace talks.
“In that case, negotiations could be unpleasant for that side and could not satisfy it,” he said. “But that would not be our fault.”
Sarkisian said nothing about prospects for the signing of an Armenian-Azeri peace accord after his October 8 meeting with Aliyev which international mediators hoped will yield a breakthrough in the peace process. Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov claimed last week that the Armenian leader toughened his position on Karabakh because of recent progress in the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations.
Making an extremely rare visit by an Armenian official to Azerbaijan on Thursday, Deputy Minister Arman Kirakosian insisted that the talks are continuing in the “constructive and positive manner.” Kirakosian spoke to journalists in Baku as he attended a ministerial meeting of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation organization, of which both Armenia and Azerbaijan are members.