By Emil Danielyan
President Robert Kocharian has conducted a four-day inspection of Armenian troops stationed along the volatile frontline with Azerbaijan, ordering their commanders to further boost their combat-readiness, his office revealed on Tuesday.
A statement by the presidential press service said Kocharian, accompanied by Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, visited “a number of frontier army bases” from November 9-12. It is unclear why news of the visit was made public only four days later.
“The purpose of the visit was to take a close look at the combat and technical readiness of the units, the implementation of training programs and social conditions of the personnel,” the statement said. It added that Kocharian inspected Armenian defense fortifications and inaugurated a new “army barracks complex.”
There was no word on the precise location of the Armenian army positions visited by Kocharian. The presidential office released more than a dozen photographs of the unpublicized trip. Virtually all of them feature the commander of Nagorno-Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian forces, Lieutenant-General Seyran Ohanian, standing alongside a uniformed Kocharian.
The images suggests that the inspection took place at the heavily militarized Armenian-Azerbaijani line of contact north and east of Karabakh. The more than 100-kilometer frontline was the main battleground during the 1991-94 war for the disputed region.
The statement said while Kocharian, who governed Karabakh during the war, was largely satisfied with what he saw, he urged top army commanders “not to content themselves with the achieved results” and to continue to strengthen their troops.
The low-key troop inspection was followed by Kocharian’s unusually pessimistic remarks on Monday about prospects for a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. They were echoed by Defense Minister Sarkisian in an interview with Reuters news agency later in the day.
“I do not see anything serious (in negotiations) from our neighbors,” Sarkisian said, accusing Azerbaijan of trying to “blackmail” the Armenian side through the United Nations. “Ask them: what compromise? They say ‘give everything back including Nagorno-Karabakh and after that we will not start hostilities.’ That is not compromise, that is blackmail,” he added.
Sarkisian was at the same time confident that Baku will not follow through on its regular threats to win back Karabakh by force. He said he sees no signs that another Armenian-Azerbaijani war is in the offing, according to Reuters.