6 Apr 2019 19:36

Azeri military exercise aimed at conducting offensive operations - defense minister

BAKU. April 6 (Interfax) - The Armed Forces of Azerbaijan should be ready for a launch of active hostilities, the country's Defense Minister Col. Gen. Zakir Hassanov said at a meeting with the Armed Forces Central Command on Saturday.

"All exercises carried out under the plan are aimed at conducting large-scale offensive operations," Hassanov was quoted by the Azeri Defense Ministry as saying.

With their irresponsible claims the Armenian military-political leaders are facilitating tension escalation on the Karabakh conflict line, he said.

"The minister issued specific instructions to commanders and chiefs of every level to organize permanent surveillance and keep enemy's activities under control, give a resolute response to its potential provocations and be ready for a start of active combat operations any time," the defense ministry said

Hassanov told commanders to increase the intensity of exercises and practices, "especially at nighttime, in an environment as close to real-life combat as possible," the statement said.

The situation in the Karabakh conflict zone sharply escalated in the early hours of April 2, 2016. Hostilities with aviation and artillery ensued. Both sides accused each other violating ceasefire on the contact line. Each side overstated the other's losses and understated its own.

On April 5, 2016, a ceasefire was agreed in Baku and Stepanakert, the capital of the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh republic.

Azerbaijan lost control over Karabakh and seven other areas in the early 1990s as a result of a conflict with the region's ethnic Armenian population and with Armenia.

In May 1994, a ceasefire was introduced between Armenia and Karabakh on the one part, and Azerbaijan on the other.

The current Karabakh talks are being mediated by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe's Minsk Group set up in 1992 to search for peaceful settlement. The MG comprises Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Finland and Turkey, and is co-chaired by Russia, France and the United States.

Azerbaijan does not consider Karabakh to be a party to the conflict and has refused to negotiate with it.