YEREVAN, January 21. / ARKA /. A spokesman for Nagorno-Karabakh president suggested that the international peace brokers from the OSCE Minsk Group could become the first passengers to make an air travel from Karabakh capital Stepanakert to Yerevan in order to make Azerbaijan understand that the international community will not tolerate terrorism in all its forms.
In an interview with Novosti Armenia, David Babayan described Baku’s threats to shoot down civilian aircraft, which will operate flights from Yerevan to Stepanakert and back as manifestation of terrorism at the state level.
According to vesti.az news website, Azerbaijani Cabinet approved last week new air use rules which allow its air forces to shoot aircrafts, which will fly across its territory without requesting permission. Babayan urged the international community to respond to Baku’s threats by concrete steps.
He said the cochairmen of the Minsk Group from USA, Russia and France could become the first passengers to travel by air from Stepanakert to Yerevan. . "This way they will show Azerbaijan that the international community and the mediators do not accept terrorism in any manifestation. They will also make Baku realize that they will not tolerate such threats any longer,’ he said.
On Friday Armenian defense minister Seyran Ohanian said Armenian armed forces will ensure the safe operation of Stepanakert airport in Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.
The renovated airport, equipped with modern technology and able to handle 100 passengers an hour is fully ready to operate flights between Stepanakert and Yerevan. According to NKR authorities, later it will operate also international flights.
Azerbaijan has threatened to down Karabakh planes. Azerbaijan’s military rhetoric has not subsided despite warning by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen.
"I said, and I repeat today that Armenian air defense forces will ensure the safety of flights between NKR and Armenia,’ Ohanian said.
The conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh broke out in 1988 after the predominantly Armenian-populated enclave declared about secession from Azerbaijan. As Azerbaijan declared its independence from the Soviet Union and removed the powers held by the enclave's government, the Armenian majority voted in 1991, December 10, to secede from Azerbaijan and in the process proclaimed the enclave the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Full-scale fighting, initiated by Azerbaijan, erupted in the late winter of 1992. International mediation by several groups including Europe's OSCE’s failed to bring an end resolution that both sides could work with. In the spring of 1993, Armenian forces captured regions outside the enclave itself. By the end of the war in 1994, the Armenians were in full control of most of the enclave and also held and currently control seven regions beyond the administrative borders of Nagorno-Karabakh. Almost 1 million people on both sides have been displaced as a result of the conflict.
A Russian- -brokered ceasefire was signed in May 1994 and peace talks, mediated by the OSCE Minsk Group, have been held ever since by Armenia and Azerbaijan. -0-