AFP – Armenia’s President Serzh Sargsyan has urged international powers to step up pressure on Azerbaijan to avoid all-out war over the disputed Nagorny Karabakh region, accusing his nation’s arch-foe of military “blackmail”.
“The danger of a new war is constant and will persist until Azerbaijan is persuaded that there is no military solution to the conflict,” Sargsyan told AFP in an interview ahead of a visit to France.
Sargsyan – who will meet French President Francois Hollande in Paris on Wednesday – accused his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev of sabotaging any progress by threatening to start fighting unless he gets his way.
“He said Azerbaijan will not start a war if Armenia fulfils its demands. I said that this is blackmail, not a compromise,” the Armenian leader said.
Sargsyan urged Paris, Moscow, and Washington to “show what price one of the sides will pay if it initiates an attack.”
“That will have a sobering effect,” he said.
“Public opinion in Armenia is that the resumption of hostilities is a matter of time – maybe weeks or months – and the commander-in-chief and defence minister must be prepared that a war could start tomorrow,”Sargsyan said.
“I don’t think a fresh war is an immediate threat, but nothing is ruled out when one deals with an unpredictable neighbour.”
Sargsyan also took aim at Armenia’s longstanding foe Turkey, blasting Ankara’s support for its traditional ally Baku over the Karabakh conflict.
“At this point, the process of normalisation (with Turkey) is in an impasse,” Sargsyan said. “They link normalisation with the Karabakh issue.”
Stressing that international pressure and military parity between Yerevan and Baku have so far helped to avoid a new war, Sargsyan also expressed concern over Russia supplying sophisticated weapons to Azerbaijan worth billions of dollars.
“We take it painfully because Russia is our strategic partner.”