Azerbaijan Warns Armenia With Show of Military Might

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BAKU (AFP) — Azerbaijan paraded thousands of soldiers and hundreds of military vehicles through its capital on Sunday, in a show of force two days after talks failed to resolve a bitter territorial dispute with Armenia.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, who has overseen massive increases in defense spending, warned in his speech that he was ready to take back Nagorno Karabagh, which was seized from Azerbaijan in the 1990s by Armenian separatist forces.

“The war is not over yet,” Aliyev said at the showpiece parade in the center of Baku, vowing to end what he called the “occupation” of Karabagh.

“The territorial integrity of Azerbaijan must be restored and the territory will be restored,” he said.

Six thousand troops marched in the parade, accompanied by tanks, armored

cars and rocket launchers, as fighter planes and combat helicopters roared overhead and warships lined up in the nearby Caspian Sea bay.

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In his speech, Aliyev also spoke approvingly about the increases in defense spending financed by the energy-rich state’s huge revenues from oil and gas exports.

“Azerbaijan has fulfilled the task that I set, which was that Azerbaijan’s military expenditure must exceed the entire state budget of Armenia,” he said, noting that defense spending reached $3.3 billion this year.

Military hardware manufactured in Azerbaijan, including unmanned drones, was on show for the first time to highlight the country’s expanding defense industry.

The parade in Baku was the third in the country’s post-Soviet history and also marked this year’s 20th anniversary of independence.

It was shown live on state television in a broadcast preceded by a series of patriotic songs accompanied by images of troops in action and Aliyev wearing camouflage fatigues.

The parade was held after the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia failed to agree despite strong international pressure to a roadmap document that would have been a significant step towards a Karabagh peace deal.