YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–In a thinly veiled warning to Azerbaijan, President Serzh Sarkisian said on Thursday that a military assault on Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh would trigger “serious counterattacks” with strong elements of surprise.
Sarkisian and his leading political opponents praised the Armenian Armed Forces as the country marked the 18th anniversary of their official establishment. They visited the Yerablur military cemetery in Yerevan to pay their respects to Armenians killed in the 1991-1994 Karabakh liberation struggle.
“Today the Armenian army is the iron guarantee that ensures our survival and development and is a sobering deterrent against any hot-headed adventure,” Sarkisian said in a written address to the nation dedicated to what is a public holiday called Army Day.
“The author of any provocation must definitely expect serious counterattacks and big surprises from the Armenian army,” he said. “Failure to realize that is at least naivety.”
Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian, who is a prominent war veteran, issued a similar warning earlier this week. He said Armenian forces have significantly beefed up defense fortifications around Karabakh in recent years and are prepared for renewed fighting regularly threatened by Azerbaijan.
Sarkisian visited Yerablur together with other Armenian leaders to lay a wreath at the tomb of Armenia’s first defense minister, the late Vazgen Sarkisian. He also used the occasion to decorate and promote several senior army officers.
“Today you are awarded for your achievements, and it’s thanks to your achievements that our country becomes stronger both politically and psychologically,” he said during the award ceremony. “With these awards our country and people express their appreciation and gratitude to those, who devotedly serve the Republic of Armenia, who have devoted their lives to the mission of defending and maintaining peace in our country.”
In his written remarks, Sarkisian had underscored the army’s pivotal role in maintaining the balance of peace in the region. “The prevention of war is the greatest victory for any normal country that respects the rights of nations and states, and the Armenian officers and soldiers are doing it effectively,” he said.
Prime Minister, Tigran Sargsyan, echoed the president’s sentiments. “Each of us is visiting Yerablur with pride because we have a victorious army,” he said. “We must do everything to have a strong army that is a reliable guarantor of the security of our state and the Armenian people.”
“The borders of our Motherland are peaceful today, and our people create their free life in Armenia and Artsakh thanks to the devoted service of our brave soldiers and commanders,” he said, praising the army as the “pride of our people.”
His Holiness Karekin I, Catholicos of All Armenians, issued his own statement on the occasion, blessing “the officers and soldiers of the Armenian Armed Forces and all Armenians throughout the world on the occasion of Army Day.”
“We ask the Almighty to grant success to the brave and amiable officers and soldiers in their service to our country,” Echmiadzin said. “May the Lord bless and strengthen our army, grant peace and reconciliation to our native land and to all the Armenians throughout the world. “