Azeri Oil Money Does Not Intimidate Armenia Says Oskanian
YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–In a strongly worded statement released over the weekend–Armenia’said that Azerbaijan’s planned military buildup would not force Armenia into making increased concessions in negotiating the Mountainous Karabagh conflict.
The statement came in response to Azeri President Ilham Aliyev’s pledge to boost his country’s military budget by 70 percent through multimillion-dollar proceeds from its soaring oil exports. Aliyev said in a speech last Tuesday that increases in Azeri military spending will eventually force Armenia’s to make more compromises on Karabagh
But in his written statement–Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian point-blank stated: "They can neither seduce nor–worse–scare us with their oil. Armenia always has the ability to militarily counter any Azerbaijani military budget. In fact–the advantage that Armenia’s have over Azerbaijan is not in military expenditures or arms–but in the justness of the cause." Oskanian also said that Azeris will always lack the motivation to win back Mountainous Karabagh–and that the international community has come to terms with Armenian control over Karabagh.
"Armenia’s believe that the Mountainous Karabagh cause is just–and in case of war–they will be fighting for their own homes and land. This is not what the Azerbaijanis did or would do," he said.
"It would be better for Azerbaijan to compete not militarily–but engage in healthy economic and political competition," said Oskanian. "And in those realms–today–Azerbaijan is far from challenging Armenia or even Mountainous Karabagh."
The chief of the Armenian army staff–Colonel-General Mikael Harutiunian–also brushed aside Aliyev’s threats on Monday. "I think they ought to invest that money in the socio-economic development of their country and people who are poor and starving," he said.
Harutiunian also warned that the Armenian side "will not stay idle" either. "We are also preparing and although we are not going to invest big money–we will invest enough," he said without elaborating.
The latest round of war of words between Armenia-Azerbaijan comes on the eve of Aliyev’s talks in Russia with President Robert Kocharian–which international mediators say could mark a turning point in the long-running efforts to broker a solution to the Karabagh dispute. Oskanian and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov will meet in Moscow on Wednesday to prepare for those talks.
Speaking to journalists in Baku on Friday–Aliyev said although the conflicting parties have made serious progress towards a peaceful settlement there are still "serious differences." He claimed that they have been discussing a "step-by-step" peace accord that would indefinitely delay agreement on Karabakh’s status.
But Oskanian denied this–saying that the Armenia is only ready to accept a "package" deal that "may be implemented in stages." He also said the international community is "assessing the situation more realistically" than Azerbaijan. "The international trend regarding conflicts–East Timor–developmen’s around Kosovo–the Sudan Agreement–all these developmen’s demonstrate that the international community today is leaning towards greater respect for the right of peoples to self-determination," he said.