-In a written statement, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry hailed as precedent setting Georgia’s attack on the unrecognized South Ossetian republic Friday, signaling the possibility that Azerbaijan might seek a similar course of action with the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.
The statement described Georgia’s military offensive against South Ossetia as a positive precedent for countries seeking to use military force to restore “territorial integrity.”
“Georgia has proven that peaceful talks are not the only way to restore territorial integrity,” the statement said. “[Azerbaijan] has the right to return its lands by use of force.”
Georgian troops launched a major military attack against South Ossetia’s capital of Tskhinvali on Friday in a bid to regain control over the unrecognized republic. The attack prompted a furious response from Russia, which sent tanks, jets and ground forces to defend province. S. Ossetia won defacto independence as the Soviet Union crumbled when Georgia was struggling to consolidate its own break off from Moscow in 1992.
On Monday, Azeri Defense Minister Safar Abiyev said that if a peaceful resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is not found Azerbaijan may choose other ways to “liberate the occupied regions.”
Although official statements claim that peace talks between the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan have been positive, official Baku continues to express frustration with the pace of negotiations, claiming that it is its right to reassert its “territorial integrity” by force if necessary.
The foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan met on August 1in Moscow for the third time in as many months to try to bridge the two countries’ differences over a framework peace agreement on Nagorno-Karabakh proposed by international mediators. Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev and his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian had their first face-to-face meeting in Saint Petersburg in early June. The three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, mediating for a peaceful settlement of the Karabakh Conflict since 1992, have described the meetings as positive and hopeful.
Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, however, has grown frustrated by peace talks in recent months and has been hardening his war rhetoric, threatening to use his country’s growing oil wealth to launch a full-scale war to occupy Nagorno-Karabakh and “restore its territorial integrity.”
The atmosphere has been tense ever since Aliyev said in early June that although Azerbaijan would continue to take political steps to recover Karabakh and neighboring territories under Armenian control, “we should be ready to liberate our lands in a military way at any time.” He added that Azerbaijan’s army was the strongest in the region.
On March 4, Azeri Armed Forces violated the Nagorno-Karabakh Ceasefire line and opened fire on Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Army positions northeast of the Martakert Region, temporarily capturing a Karabakh defense position.
The attack, which was followed by protracted skirmishes throughout the month, was considered by Armenian officials and international mediators as unprecedented in its scale.
Friday, August 8, 2008