Babayan Sees Azeri ‘Illusions’ to End Conflict by Force

STEPANAKERT (RFE/RL)–General Samvel Babayan–commander of the Nagorno-Karabakh army–said on Friday the latest outbreak of fighting between Azeri and Armenian forces testifies to Baku’s intention to restore its control over the disputed territory by force or with the help of other countries.

"Any attempt to change the strategic lines [of contact] will be countered with decisive and strong action," he told RFE/RL in an interview.

The warning followed this week’s skirmishes along the north-eastern section of Nagorno-Karabakh’s border.

Babayan reiterated Stepanakert’s claim that Azerbaijan has not given up hope to re-conquer Karabakh. He also said Baku wants to use "economic interests" of third countries in the region against the Armenia’s–in an apparent reference to the involvement of Western companies in Caspian oil deals.

Azeri Defense Minister Safar Abiev has said recently that his country wants NATO to play a major role in bringing peace to the region.

Babayan warned that any attempt of a forcible solution to the conflict would lead nowhere. "Azerbaijan is still far from displaying political will to correctly assess the situation and accept it as it is. When a realistic perception of the military and political situation is absent–illusions come into play," he said.

The powerful general went on to argue that Azerbaijan is keen to "heighten tension" on the front-line because it is unwilling to accept the existing international plan on Karabakh.

"The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic made a gesture of good will by accepting the idea of a common state as a basis for a future dialogue with Azerbaijan," Babayan said.

He at the same time noted that the latest outbreak of fighting near Karabakh was "not the first" since the Russian-brokered truce came into force five years ago. "Such shoot-outs occur almost every week," Babayan said.

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