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.