By Isabel Debre
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Israel has quietly helped fuel Azerbaijan’s campaign to recapture Nagorno-Karabakh, supplying powerful weapons to Azerbaijan ahead of its lightening offensive last month that brought the ethnic Armenian enclave back under its control, officials and experts say.
Just weeks before Azerbaijan launched its 24-hour assault on Sept. 19, Azerbaijani military cargo planes repeatedly flew between a southern Israeli airbase and an airfield near Nagorno-Karabakh, according to flight tracking data and Armenian diplomats, even as Western governments were urging peace talks.
The flights rattled Armenian officials in Yerevan, long wary of the strategic alliance between Israel and Azerbaijan, and shined a light on Israel’s national interests in the restive region south of the Caucasus Mountains.
“For us, it is a major concern that Israeli weapons have been firing at our people,” Arman Akopian, Armenia’s ambassador to Israel, told the Associated Press on October 5. In a flurry of diplomatic exchanges, Akopian said he expressed alarm to Israeli politicians and lawmakers in recent weeks over Israeli weapons shipments.
“I don’t see why Israel should not be in the position to express at least some concern about the fate of people being expelled from their homeland,” he told AP.