Artsakh defense chief outlines security priorities

By Asbarez | Tuesday, 01 August 2017

Artsakh Defense Minister Samvel Mnatsakanyan

Artsakh Defense Minister Samvel Mnatsakanyan

STEPANAKERT—The Artsakh Army is prepared and will launch counter offensives and expand the existing security zone should Azerbaijan wage a new attack on its borders, Artsakh Defense Minister Levon Mnatsakanyan told Armenia Public Television’s “Off the Agenda” program on Saturday.

“In the event of a new attack we will inflict a crushing blow to the enemy forces and certainly undertake counter-offensive actions. We will expand the width and the depth of the existing security zone during those counter-offensive actions. The few positions that came under Azerbaijani control in April 2016, will definitely be retaken,” Mnatsakanyan said.

Speaking of Azerbaijan’s policy to use its civilian population as a human shield during attacks on Artsakh positions, Mnatsakanyan lamented the loss of civilian lives, but said that Azerbaijan bears full responsibility for any deaths during the attacks.

“I would recommend [that Azerbaijan] refrains from using civilians as a human shields and remove firing points from residential areas, since our frontline units will retaliate in case of any shelling regardless of the location of those firing positions,” said Mnatsakanyan.

The defense minister also said that efforts by Azerbaijan to infiltrate the Artsakh-Azerbaijan border have failed because of the Artsakh army’s efforts to counter them.

“The last attempt was made overnight on February 24 and 25 of this year, and we all know the outcome. They [Azerbaijanis] suffered six losses with five of them being left on the field and another one severely wounded who died afterward in the hospital. After that incident attempts to infiltrate the border have ceased,” added Mnatsakanyan, who said that efforts were also under way to reduce sniper attacks along the border, known as the Line of Contact.

Mnatsakanyan also discussed arms acquisitions by Azerbaijan, saying that the balance of power between Armenia and Azerbaijan never shifted and will never change amid Azerbaijani reports of new arms purchases.