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With an array of new, domestically produced weapons, including sniper rifles, machine guns, armed drones, and armored vehicles, Azerbaijan is showcasing its arms industry amid growing tensions with neighboring Armenia.
Much of the attention on Azerbaijan’s growing military has focused on the country’s weapons purchases from abroad, notably from Russia and Israel. But the country also has been steadily building up its indigenous production capabilities. The new wares were on display at the country’s defense exposition, ADEX-2016, at the end of September.
“Today, the Azerbaijani army is one of the strongest armies in the region,” the country’s Minister of Defense Industry, Yavar Jamalov, said at the expo’s opening. “Today’s event is a good example of that.”
Armenian authorities have arbitrarily detained dozens of people linked to the ongoing, largely peaceful, protests and beaten many of them, Human Rights Watch said today. The authorities also have pressed unjustified criminal charges against numerous protest leaders and some participants and denied them basic rights of detainees.
“The Armenian authorities’ response to Yerevan’s largely peaceful protests has been excessive and cruel,” said Jane Buchanan, associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The tense atmosphere at some protests is no justification for detaining people arbitrarily, beating them, and bringing disproportionate criminal charges against them.”
Usually in a hostage crisis, the public sympathizes with the hostages upon their release. But in the Armenian capital of Yerevan, where a group of anti-government gunmen took over a police station last Sunday, more sympathy seems to be with the hostage-takers themselves.
“It is unclear why the guys turned to such a measure,” complained 35-year-old radio technician Armen Nersesian about the group’s July 23 agreement to release four policemen in exchange for a press briefing. “It is the most incorrect step they could take. Now [government forces] can invade at any moment and carry out an armed attack.”
Members of a fringe opposition movement called Founding Parliament, the fighters are mostly veterans of the 1988-1994 conflict with Azerbaijan over breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh. Some of them hold highly celebrated war records.
When Armenia joined the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union in 2015, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan justified the decision in part by asserting that membership would enhance Armenia’s national security. But, as the early April flare-up in fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces over the Nagorno-Karabakh territory showed, such security benefits are more theoretical than real.
Armenia is ostensibly Russia’s closest strategic ally in the South Caucasus. Yet the intense fighting in Karabakh helped focus public attention on an issue that has rankled Armenians – Russian arms sales to Azerbaijan. Armenia officially lost 92 soldiers in the four days of fighting. The fact that Russian-supplied arms played a role in those deaths has become a source of bitterness for Armenians.
“It is naturally painful for us when Russia, and not only Russia, but other CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) member states, sell arms to Azerbaijan,” Sargsyan said in early April while on a visit to Germany.
Germany’s resolution is likely to place a strain on relations between Berlin and Ankara, and follows a recent migrant deal between Turkey and the European Union, in which Germany plays a central role. Germany and Turkey are engaged in a NATO operation to stop migrant boats crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey responded by saying that the move by the German parliament has seriously damaged relations between the two countries. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was on a state visit to Kenya, said the decision would have a serious impact on the bilateral ties.
Erdogan said that recalling the ambassador for consultations was the“first step” and that the Turkish government would consider further steps to be taken in response to the vote.
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry also summoned the German chargé d’affaires in Ankara to protest the vote as the ambassador was out of town. The Turkish government has already recalled its ambassador to Germany.