BAKU (RFE/RL)–Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliev on Monday vowed a policy of "total offensive" against neighboring Armenia during a hardline speech ahead of the presidential election this week.
The incumbent president and candidate in the country’s October 15 presidential election told an extended meeting of the Azerbaijani government on Monday that the policy will remain unchanged until Armenia “stops the occupation of Azerbaijani lands.”
"As long as our territory is under occupation, we will follow a policy of a total offensive against Armenia in the political, economic, military and transport sectors," Azerbaijani media quoted Aliyev as saying in what is viewed as one of his fiercest verbal attacks on Armenia in the generally low-key election campaign.
“No cooperation with Armenia is possible before a solution is found to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. No participation [by Armenia] in any of the regional projects is possible until then. And we will do everything possible for today’s situation to continue, for the situation of Armenia’s to become even more aggravated in conditions of the continuing isolation in order that they better understand what their future hinges upon,” the Azeri leader continued.
Azerbaijanis take to the polls on Wednesday to elect a new president and Aliev, the son of the country’s first post-Soviet president, is the favorite since the opposition is boycotting the vote.
The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic declared independence from Azerbaijan in 1991. Baku responded to Karabakh’s democracy movement with massacres and a massive military offensive, sparking a three year conflict that devastated the Armenian territory and killed tens of thousands. Armenia and Azerbaijan signed a ceasefire in 1994, with Azerbaijan and its main regional ally, Turkey, imposing an economic blockade against Armenia that has been maintained to date. Skirmishes along the border are frequent.