YEREVAN (Arka)—Resumption of hostilities with Azerbaijan is possible, Armenia’s defense minister Vigen Sargsyan said in an interview with Russian Lenta.ru, reminding that in 1994, Azerbaijan, the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (Artsakh) and Armenia had signed a trilateral ceasefire agreement.
“Unfortunately, for more than 20 years, Azerbaijan has been torpedoing the peace process. Moreover, it consistently is thwarting all the attempts of the international community, represented by the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group (Russia, USA, and France) to find a possible way to resolve the conflict. In April of this year, Azerbaijan undertook a large-scale military adventure against Nagorno-Karabakh, which was a complete failure,” he said.
According to the minister, it is obvious that neither Armenia nor the countries of the region will benefit from a possible escalation of the conflict.
“As the guarantor of the security of Nagorno-Karabakh, Yerevan will have to get involved in the conflict, if it happens. It is also clear that the resumption of war will be a serious threat to the entire South Caucasus,” Sargsyan stressed.
In response to a question about the significance of the Russian factor in the context of national security of Armenia, Sargsyan noted that the Russian presence in the region and deepening military and political cooperation between Russia and Armenia is an important constraint preventing the resumption of hostilities contributing also to the preservation of regional stability and security.
“The Russian military base in Armenia is part of the Armenian-Russian joint group of troops, founded in the territory of Armenia. We carry out joint operational planning for use of troops in the interests of joint security, while air defense system and Russian military base’s air force and the Armenian armed forces successfully carry joint combat duty, solving the most important task of ensuring the safety of our air borders,” he said.
Sargsyan reminded that it was Armenia’s initiative to prolong in 2010 the agreement on the presence of the Russian military base in Armenia from 25 to 49 years – until 2044.
“It is important to note that along with the decision to extend the presence of the base in Armenia an important amendment was made to the wording of its mandate. Earlier the Russian military base in Armenia was responsible only for the organization of defense along the perimeter of the external borders of the former Soviet Union. The amendments have withdrawn this wording.. Now the base is part of the Armenia’s defense system as a whole,” Sargsyan said.
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict erupted into armed clashes after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s as the predominantly Armenian-populated enclave of Azerbaijan sought for self-determination from Azerbaijan and declared its independence backed by a successful referendum.
Nagorno-Karabakh is the longest-running post-Soviet era conflict and has continued to simmer despite the relative peace of the past two decades, with snipers causing tens of deaths a year.
On April 2, 2016, Azerbaijan launched military assaults along the entire perimeter of its contact line with Nagorno-Karabakh. Four days later a cease-fire was reached.