President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan has said Armenia and its military forces “need to leave our territory, and then, the war will stop and then the conflict will come to an end.”
In an interview with Al Jazeera, President Aliyev went on to say that once the war is over “maybe some time later people of Azerbaijan and Armenia can again live together, in peace.”
Aliyev, however, gave no indication that a cessation of hostilities would end anytime soon, adding: “I think Armenian government overestimated their so-called importance on global arena, overestimated the possible international support to them and made very serious mistakes provoking us, attacking us and now they are suffering the very serious defeat.”
Long-simmering tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan have flared up in the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region in recent days, with both sides accusing each other of attacking civilians amid reports of casualties.
The neighboring countries have long been at odds over the mountainous territory – which is situated within the borders of Azerbaijan – and fought a war over it that ended in 1994.
Although the conflict finished with a Russian-brokered cease-fire, military skirmishes between the two sides are not uncommon.
Further evidence has emerged this week of rebels from Syria being recruited to fight as mercenaries in the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, over the disputed enclave.
But both Azerbaijan and Turkey have denied the presence of Syrian rebels in the conflict – something that Aliyev maintained in his Al Jazeera interview, adamant that no such fighters were in the country.
Aliyev urged French President Emmanuel Macron to provide proof that Syrian mercenaries were fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh, saying, “He made the statements without any evidence. Let him give us evidence. Let him give us proof.”
In a statement released Saturday, the Armenian Foreign Ministry warned: “The political-military leadership of Azerbaijan will pay a high price for committing such grave crimes against the Armenians of Artsakh, for importing terrorists to the region and for undermining the regional security.”
Aren Melikyan reported from Yerevan, Armenia and Arzu Geybullaeva reported from Istanbul. Rory Sullivan and Jennifer Hauser contributed reporting.