BAKU (RFE/RL)–Reacting to the signing of a new Russian-Armenian defense agreement, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s chief foreign policy aide has claimed that both Russia and the West support Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
“Giving such big support to an occupying country contradicts international legal norms and principles,” Novruz Mammadov told the APA news agency in an interview late on Thursday. “It is not very difficult to understand the essence of such overt support for such a state.”
Mammadov said that by prolonging and upgrading its military presence in Armenia with that agreement Russia called into question its stated neutrality toward the Karabakh dispute. “With such statements and such support, it’s difficult to be an objective mediator,” he said.
Armenian officials say that the new defense pact, which also commits the Russians to supplying its regional ally with modern weaponry, will discourage Azerbaijan from attempting to resolve the dispute by force. Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service this week that Russian troops could openly support Armenia in case of renewed fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh.
“I don’t think that the signing of such an agreement between Russia and Armenia and a greater modernization of the local [Russian military] base will pose a threat only to Azerbaijan,” Mammadov said, commenting on these statements. “If the Armenian side thinks that Nagorno-Karabakh belongs to it, then it’s a big mistake.”
“If Armenia wants to draw Russia into a war in Nagorno-Karabakh, then it’s another big mistake,” he added.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry rejected Ohanian’s remarks as “laughable” by “This agreement is between two states, it is up to them. But this protocol cannot hinder or stop the Azerbaijani Army,” ministry spokesman Eldar Sabiroglu told ANS television on Thursday.
According to RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani service, Sabiroglu also said Azerbaijan has no choice but to upgrade its armed forces by acquiring new weaponry.
Mammadov, who heads the foreign relations department at Aliyev’s administration, also hit out at the United States and other Western powers. “One of the results of my calculations and observations is that the West and Europe … have channeled all their efforts into rendering support and assistance to the occupier Armenia in a regular, systemic manner,” he said.
The Azerbaijani official claimed in that context that the West organized an upcoming NATO disaster relief exercise in Armenia in order to force Turkey to open the Turkish-Armenian border. “They thus want to once again pit Turkey against Azerbaijan,” he said.