STEPANAKERT (RFE/RL)—President Serzh Sarkisian has visited Nagorno-Karabakh and inspected Armenian army positions around the disputed territory ahead of planned talks with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev.
Sarkisian’s office said on Wednesday that he toured army units deployed at the northeastern section of the main Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact.”
One of those units held a military exercise in the presence of a uniform-clad Sarkisian, Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian and Karabakh’s top political and military leaders. A statement by the presidential press office said the Karabakh Armenian soldiers practiced offensive and defensive operations. One of the photographs released by it showed tanks opening fire during the drills.The statement added that Sarkisian also inaugurated a new Karabakh army barracks before chairing a meeting of top Armenian and Karabakh military officers later on Tuesday. No details of that meeting were reported.
Sarkisian, who commanded Karabakh Armenian forces during the 1991-1994 war with Azerbaijan, has inspected Armenian frontline positions on a regular basis. In particular, he attended large-scale war games near Karabakh in October last year. Such trips have been condemned by Azerbaijani leaders as a manifestation of “Armenian aggression” against Azerbaijan.
Sarkisian’s latest visit comes just weeks before his anticipated meeting with Aliyev, which international mediators hope will help to kick-start the Karabakh peace process. U.S. President Barack Obama spoke of a “historic opportunity” to resolve the Karabakh conflict in a letter to Aliyev sent last week.