The revival of the bloodiest war in the former Soviet Union may start sooner than expected, as Azerbaijan seemingly tries to inflame tensions with neighboring Armenia. Azerbaijan’s Nakhichevan exclave, known to its residents and outsiders alike as “a region without rights,” is making clear its refusal to return four captured soldiers that Armenia says erroneously entered Azeri territory.
Additionally, local media in Azerbaijan report the authorities are preparing to “punish” the Armenian soldiers who crossed the border two months ago. According to Trend News, an Azerbaijani Military of Defense spokesperson has said that “Armenians who attempted to commit sabotage in Azerbaijan will be punished in line with the legislation.”
While not specifying what the “punishment” will be, Azerbaijan’s new tough message interestingly accompanied ultra-nationalist president Ilham Aliyev’s visit to Nakhichevan, the region he hails from. Aliyev, who has threatened to restart the war against Armenia over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, made several stops in Nakhichevan including overseeing the opening of a hospital in the district of Djulfa – the same area where local soldiers reduced the world’s largest Armenian cemetery to dust in December 2005.
Djulfa’s destruction, which was condemned by the European Parliament, is part of a number of recent failures by the Aliyev regime which seem to have made Azerbaijan’s authoritarian establishment even more militant. A few months ago, France, Russia and the United States – the three countries involved in negotiating the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process – loudly rejected a resolution on Nagorno-Karabakh by Azerbaijan in the United Nations.
With the enormous oil boom and an almost omnipresent hatred against Armenia, Azerbaijan’s regime seems to think it can afford a war against Armenia. Or maybe they are trying to scare the world?
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