Israel may halt its weapons sale to Azerbaijan, Armenian ambassador says
Israel may halt commercial weapon sales to Azerbaijan, Armenian Ambassador to Israel Armen Smbatyan told The Jerusalem Post, as fighting intensified for the ninth day between the two countries.
“I believe that due to the appeal by the international organizations and many individual states for an immediate de-escalation, Israel may halt its arms sales to Azerbaijan,” Smbatyan said.
“There is no alternative to a peaceful negotiated solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and all regional countries should bring their contribution to stabilize the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh,” he added.
“The number of casualties is increasing every day, including the civilian population. Azerbaijan should cease hostilities and get back to negotiations to find a peaceful resolution to this conflict,” Smbatyan said. He had made similar comment to the Armenian news outlet Factor.
Last week, Armenia recalled Smbatyan for consultations to protest the sale of Israeli made weapons, including drones, to Azerbaijan, which have been used against its forces.
The Foreign Ministry said it would not comment on Smbatyan’s words or on Jerusalem’s export policy with regard to defense matters.
Renewed hostilities broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan on September 27, over the contested Nagorno-Karabakh territory.
Israel has strong ties with both counties and has sought to remain neutral in the conflict, but it receives 40% of its oil supply from Azerbaijan, making its ties with that country particularly important.
The commercial Israeli weapons sales to Azerbaijan have also made it hard for Jerusalem to maintain a position of neutrality, in a conflict that has threatened to involve the larger parties of Russia, which backs Armenia, and Turkey, which supports Azerbaijan.
Fuad Akhundov, head of sector for work with foreign media in the administration of the president of the Republic of Azerbaijan, told The Jerusalem Post that any reports that sales would be halted were “fake news” and he lauded the tight ties between his country and Israel.
“Israel is our partner,” as part of that partnership Azerbaijan had contracts with Israel to purchase military hardware, but that the contracts only dealt with hardware and did not involve greater involvement.
Akhundov confirmed Azerbaijan was using Israeli drones in its battle with Armenia, which he called the aggressor in the situation.
Azerbaijan, once provoked by Armenia, was simply reclaiming its territory and that its right to that land was supported by international law, Akhundov said.
“We are fighting not against the Armenian people,” he said.
It was his presumption that Armenia sought to involve both Russia and Turkey in the conflict, Akhundov said. Armenia has a military pact with Russia, through the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), by which Moscow is bound to come to its aid in certain situations.
BOTH ARMENIA and Azerbaijan accused each other on Monday of attacking civilian areas on a ninth day of fighting, the deadliest in the south Caucasus region in more than 25 years.
Hundreds of people have been killed in the latest outbreak of war over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountain enclave that belongs to Azerbaijan under international law but is populated and governed by ethnic Armenians.
The fighting intensified over the weekend, and prospects for a ceasefire appeared remote after an uncompromising speech from Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev on Sunday.
In a televised address to the nation, Aliyev said Azeri forces were advancing and retaking lands that they lost to ethnic Armenians in the early 1990s – though Armenia disputes these gains.
He demanded that Armenia set a timetable for withdrawing from Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding Azeri territories, and said Azerbaijan would not cease military action until that happened.
“Azerbaijan has one condition, and that is the liberation of its territories,” he said. “Nagorno-Karabakh is the territory of Azerbaijan.”
Speaking immediately afterward, Armenian Defense Ministry official Artsrun Hovhannisyan said: “I don’t think that there is any risk for Yerevan [the Armenian capital], but anyway we are in war.”
The fighting has raised international concern about stability in the south Caucasus, where pipelines carry Azeri oil and gas to world markets, and about the possibility that other regional powers – including Russia and Turkey – could be dragged in.
Reuters contributed to this report.