Sargisian Responds to Azeri Threats: Suggests if War Were to Take Place, Armenia Would ‘Solve Issue Finally’


President Serge Sargisian at military exercises held by the Karabagh army last week

By Lusine Musayelian

STEPANAKERT (RFE/RL) — Armenia and Nagorno-Karabagh will deal a “devastating and final” blow to Azerbaijan if it attempts to resolve their conflict by force, President Serge Sargisian warned at the weekend after monitoring large-scale military exercises held by Karabagh Armenian troops.

Sargisian as well as Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian and Karabagh’s top political and military leaders inspected Armenian frontline positions east of the disputed territory on Friday before attending the final phase of the drills held in the same area since November 1. He then discussed the situation in the conflict zone with the top brass of the Nagorno- Karabagh Defense Army closely integrated with the armed forces of Armenia proper.

“The military exercises, which were maximally adapted to a combat situation, must be a warning to others,” Sargisian told them. “If push suddenly comes to shove, we will manage not just to repeat what happened in 1992-1994 but to finally resolve the conflict and the issue will be closed once and for all.”

“We never wanted war, we were simply compelled to defend our homeland at thattime,” he said, referring to the first Armenian-Azerbaijani war. “We will not attack first now either. But if the moment arrives, if they force us, our strike must be devastating and final this time around.”

Sargisian, who commanded the Karabagh Armenian forces during the war, confirmed that the exercises were held in response to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s growing threats to reconquer Karabagh and Azerbaijani districts surrounding them.

Aliyev reiterated those threats as he visited Azerbaijani-controlled territories across the heavily fortified “line of contact” earlier in the week.

Sargisian, in a statement after the exercises, said:

“The exercises that we observed today have really been very impressive. This is the greatest proof of the fact that every month and every year our army matures even further, becomes more combat ready, more organized, more controllable and more disciplined. What we have is enough to deal the potential enemy a lethal blow. However, we will not be complacent about that but will continue to constantly amplify capabilities, skills and armaments of our Armed Forces because developments in the neighboring country are extremely troublesome. They link all their failures and problems to Armenians. Anti-Armenianism has become state policy. Unfortunately, they prepare their own people for war; we, on the contrary, prepare our people for peace, explain the importance of solving the issue through peaceful means. We state publicly, yes, we are ready to make some concessions, ready to solve the issue when the final status of the Nagorno Karabagh Republic is determined, i.e. the issue of security of the people of Nagorno Karabagh is resolved.

And to solve this issue, Officers and Soldiers, you always must be stronger, your combat readiness must intensify, your weapons must be faster, your willpower must prevail, your dedication must be boundless. I have no doubt that if the time comes, we will not only do what we did in 1992-94 but will go even further and solve the issue finally; the issue will be closed for good.

What’s to be done to reach our goal? We must constantly be vigilant, be ready. Nobody should doubt your resolve just as I don’t doubt it, because provocations go on, shooting goes on, people continue to die and not every one gives this conduct of Azerbaijan a proper assessment. It means that we have to be vigilant, it means that our military exercises, which have been very close to combat situation, must become a warning for the others, while for us they must become a norm of life. During the military exercises, the officers should display their knowledge, soldiers — their abilities, the command should constantly improve their skills. This is our approach, we have no other way. As commander-in-chief, as president of Armenia, officers and soldiers, I promise that you will have no need of anything. We will acquire modern gear, which we possess also today, we will have everything to be able to protect the most precious thing we have — lives of our soldiers and officers. What we have is quite enough to fulfill with honor the most important task we face.

We hear warmongering every day, every day we hear threats and attempts to scare us. But we have been there already. My veteran friends, who are present here today, officers of senior generation remember how in the beginning of 1992 only lazy in Azerbaijan was not talking about drinking tea in Stepanakert or Shushi. Their dream remained unfulfilled and many of them took it to the otherworld. At the time they too thought that they were very strong, that they could solve the issue and very fast. We don’t want war and never wanted, but at that time we had to defend our Motherland. If the time comes again, our blow will be final and deadly.”