Caucasus Peace Maintained By Karabakh Army, Says Defense Minister

STEPANAKERT (ArmRadio)—The Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army is the only force maintaining the fragile balance of peace in the South Caucasus, said Karabakh Defense Minister Movses Hakobian.

Bordering Russia, Iran and Turkey, the South Caucasus was embroiled in a devestating war in the early 1990s when Azerbaijan launched a preemptive war against the nascent Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. The conflict, which came to an end with a Russian-Brokered ceasefire in 1994, remains unresolved with Karabakh independent and Azerbaijan on a war footing building up its military arsenal for a renewed attack.

According to Hakobian, the delicate peace in the region has maintained for nearly two decades because of the Karabakh defense Army’s commitment to prevent a new war. “By constantly increasing the military capacity of our army, we continue to compel our opponent to speak with us at the negotiation table and not in the battle field,” Hakobian said.

The minister said Karabakh’s army has been steadily increasing its strength and readiness over the years to ensure the borders of Karabakh are secured and the balance of power in the Caucasus is maintained.

“The most important for us is to ensure the security of Karabakh’s borders. Last year, our opponent couldn’t commit serious encroachments. Today, our soldiers feel themselves more confident in the forefront than ever,” he explained.

Unfortunately, he noted, Azerbaijan has begun firing on Karabakh defense positions across the line of contact at an increased rate. Hakobian said this was done to test and provoke the Karabakh defense forces. “As a whole, Azerbaijan has violated the cease-fire regime 3,042 times.”

Hakobian commented on the heightened military rhetoric coming from Baku in recent months, saying that the Karabakh authorities were paying no attention to the almost daily threats of war from Azerbaijan. “We are instead undertaking everything in order that they remain just statements,” he said.

“I’m sure that if Azerbaijan is ready for a war, it will start it without asking anybody’s permission. That’s why the Karabakh Defense Army soldiers haven’t left the trenches for 16 years, in the conditions of neither war nor peace, that’s why we have orderly units, which are in operational readiness,” he noted, adding that the will of Karabakh’s people cannot be ignored.

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