Azerbaijan Starts War Games as Armenia Tension EscalatesZulfugar Agayev
Azerbaijan began large-scale military drills as tension escalated with neighboring Armenia over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
After four Armenian and two Azeri soldiers died in a flare-up of violence last week, Azerbaijan deployed 65,000 soldiers, 700 armored vehicles and 90 aircraft to take part in the exercises, its Defense Ministry said on its website. The army also called up 6,000 reservists for the drills, which will continue until Sept. 13.
Both sides accuse the other of escalating the conflict by using artillery and other heavy weapons, and a resumption of large-scale fighting would threaten Azerbaijan’s energy industry. The country of 9.5 million is the ex-Soviet Union’s third-biggest oil producer and has attracted more than $50 billion in investments from BP Plc and its partners since 1994.
Armenians took over Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent districts from Azerbaijan in a war after the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991 that killed 30,000 people and displaced more than a million. Major hostilities ended with a Russia-brokered cease-fire in 1994, but no peace agreement has been signed.
Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan met President Vladimir Putin on Monday near Moscow, telling reporters afterward that his nation will get a $200 million loan from Russia that will be used to modernize the military.
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