Azerbaijan threatens renewed war

Azerbaijan threatens renewed war

BBC News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 May, 2004, 16:59 GMT 17:59 UK

Wednesday marks the 10th anniversary of the ceasefire

Azerbaijan’s president has warned the country is ready to return to war
with Armenia – on the 10th anniversary of a ceasefire between the two.
Ilham Aliyev said he was trying to find a peaceful solution to the
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, but the Azeri army was prepared to “free”
the territory.

Ministers from both sides are reportedly meeting to try to agree a
peace settlement.

But our correspondent says relations are, if anything, worse than ever.

‘Right to war’

“We are trying to resolve this problem by peaceful means but so far
we have not been able to achieve that,” Mr Aliyev said at a military
base just a few miles from the border with Armenia.

“We must increase our military potential. Our army is able at any
moment to free our territory,” he said, according to the AFP news

“We have every right to do that, to restore our territorial integrity,
and international law is on our side since Armenia violated all
international norms.”

Mr Aliyev added that government expenditure on Azerbaijan’s military
was increasing each year, “and it will keep increasing in the future”.

The leaders of the two countries signed a ceasefire in May 1994,
but there is sporadic fighting along the ceasefire line.

The foreign ministers of both countries were meeting in Strasbourg,
and were expected to discuss Armenia returning some of the Karabakh
regions to Azeri control, in exchange for reopening transport links.

But the peace process appears to be going nowhere, says the BBC’s
Chloe Arnold in the capital Baku.

The ceasefire ended five years of hostilities which erupted when
the Soviet Union collapsed, and Armenians living in the mountainous
territory of Karabakh demanded independence from Soviet Azerbaijan.

Thousands died and one million were forced out of their homes in
the conflict.

Our correspondent says there is growing impatience with the peace
process in Azerbaijan, where many ordinary people here now say the
only way to resolve the dispute is to go back to war.