(Bloomberg) -- Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev on Wednesday warned France and India against providing Armenia with weapons he deems a threat, saying such supplies could trigger a new war in the region.
Azerbaijan “will have to react to protect its people” should Armenia start receiving “serious installations” from France and India, Aliyev told a conference in Baku, saying he’d already given advance warning to “everybody.”
The demand from the Azeri leader follows three months after his forces launched a lightening offensive to restore full control over Nagorno-Karabakh, an area controlled by Armenians since the collapse of the Soviet Union three decades ago. Aliyev reiterated that Azerbaijan had no intention of invading Armenia.
Armenia is a member of a Russia-led military bloc that hosts the only Russian army base in the South Caucasus region.
But following the setback in Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia has looked for support elsewhere, with Moscow’s attention on the war in Ukraine. In recent months, the government in Yerevan signed contracts with France and India to buy weapons including air-defense systems and armored vehicles.
The US and the European Union condemned Azerbaijan’s September offensive, which prompted an exodus of the region’s 100,000 Armenian population.
US Assistant Secretary of State James O’Brien visited Baku on Wednesday to hold talks with Aliyev on a peace agreement with Armenia. Aliyev said he wants “firm guarantees” that, emboldened with the new arms supplies, Armenia won’t seek to recapture Nagorno-Karabakh in the future.
The Azeri president told O’Brien that “historic opportunities” have emerged for reconciliation after Azerbaijan restored its sovereignty over Karabakh, adding that the US can contribute to the peace process, the state news agency Azartac reported.
Energy-rich Azerbaijan, which buys weapons from countries including Turkey, Israel and Russia, has fought several wars with Armenia over the mountainous region, which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but had a majority ethnic Armenian population.
Armenian forces took Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding districts from Azerbaijan in the war that started in 1991. Azerbaijan, an ally of Turkey and Israel, already reclaimed most of the territory during six weeks of fighting in 2020.
O’Brien said earlier that Washington is “very closely” monitoring troop movements for any sign Azerbaijan intends to invade Armenia to create a transit corridor to its exclave of Naxcivan. The diplomat said “there’s no chance of business as usual” with the government in Baku until progress is made with Armenia on a peace agreement.
--With assistance from Sara Khojoyan.
(Updates with Azeri president’s comments in eighth paragraph.)
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