“The Israel-Azerbaijan defense cooperation is over exaggerated” by Armenia to deliberately “undermine” the strong relations between his nation and Israel, said an aide to the Azeri president.
By https://www.jpost.com TOVAH LAZAROFF
Last week Armenia withdrew its ambassador to Israel Armen Smbatyan for consultations to protest the private arms sales from Israel to Azerbaijan, particularly drones, which have been used by the Azeri military in the fighting over the contested region of Nagorno-Karabak.
Earlier this week Smbatyan told the Post that he believed Israel would soon halt such sales, but to date there is no public indication that such a step has been taken.
Hajiyev, who is the head of Azerbaijan’s Foreign Policy Affairs Department of the Presidential Administration, said Armenia had not targeted Turkey or Russia in that same manner.
Azerbaijan’s defense portfolio “is quite wide and quite diversified,” Hajiyev said, adding his country has used Turkish drones on the battle field and that the bulk of its military equipment comes from Russia.
“Why are they [Armenia] only highlighting Israel,” Hajiyev asked.
Israel is a strategy partner of Azerbaijan and his country wants to deep that cooperation in the coming months and years, he said.
“We do believe that all Armenia’s attempts to somehow try to effect Israel-Azerbaijan relations will be completely unsuccessful,” Hajiyev said.
The Israel-Azerbaijan ties are not just a a “matter of today, but is matter of 1,000 years of partnership and friendship between Jewish people and Azerbaijani people,” Hajiyev said. These deep roots have been transformed into the cornerstone of the modern relationship between the two countries all spheres of cooperation, he added.
Under international law, Nagorno-Karabakh belongs to Azerbaijan, but it is populated and governed by ethnic Armenians and broke away in a 1991-94 war that killed about 30,000.
The fighting between the two countries that renewed on September 27, has increased concern that Turkey, a close ally of Azerbaijan, and Russia, which has a defense pact with Armenia, could be sucked into the conflict, thereby regionalizing it.
The clashes have also increased worries about the security of pipelines in Azerbaijan that carry natural gas and oil to Europe. Israel receives 40% of oil from Azerbaijan.
Moscow fears Islamist militants will enter Nagorno-Karabakh and use it as a base for which to enter Russia.
Stanislav Zas, who heads the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) that groups Russia and five other former Soviet republics, gave no details when he said it could intervene if Armenia’s sovereignty were threatened.
Hajiyev accused Armenia of attempting to internationalize the conflict and said that his country was simply trying to end the occupation of its lands.
“We are against any third party involvement,” he said.
“My president is engaged in telephone diplomacy” and the country is trying avoid political and military provocation by Armenia to take an action that would force Russia to intervene militarily, Hajiyev explained.
Among the provocations, he said, was attacks on Azjerbaijan cities from the “sovereign territory of Armenia,” he said.
An Azeri breach of Armenian sovereignty outside of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, could be cause for Russia to intervene militarily, a move it has been loath to do.
Hajiyev called on the international community to end the conflict by ensuring that the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh was returned to Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenians fought with artillery and heavy guns on Thursday as the United States, France and Russia stepped up efforts to secure a ceasefire and avert a wider war in the South Caucasus.
Azerbaijan said the city of Ganja had come under fire, deep inside its territory. Ethnic Armenians said Stepanakert, its main city, had been shelled by Azeri forces.
In a sign of growing alarm in the region, the head of a six-country military alliance led by Russia and including Armenia warned that the group could intervene if Armenian sovereignty were threatened.
The continued fighting and rising tension underlined the difficulties facing U.S., Russian and French officials meeting in Geneva to try to halt fighting in which at least 400 people have been killed since it broke out on Sept. 27.
Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan is expected to hold separate talks with U.S., French and Russian officials in Moscow on Monday.
Washington, Paris and Moscow are co-chairs of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Minsk Group that has led mediation over Nagorno-Karabakh since 1992.
“The position of the United States has been clear and has not changed: Both sides must cease hostilities immediately and work with the Minsk Group Co-Chairs to return to substantive negotiations as soon as possible,” a U.S. spokesman said.
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin spoke by phone with his Azeri counterpart, Ali Asadov, on Thursday to underline the importance of restarting peace talks and establishing a ceasefire, Russian news agencies reported, citing the government.
Russia’s foreign ministry said earlier on Thursday that it was in talks with Azerbaijan and Armenia to organize a possible meeting in Moscow.
Nagorno-Karabakh’s defense ministry denied a ceasefire had been agreed to go into force on Thursday.
Reuters contributed to this report.