Radio Liberty, Czech Republic
Jan 4 2008

Karabakh Armenians Told To Accept Azeri Rule Or Emigrate

By Emil Danielyan

Azerbaijan's tough-talking President Ilham Aliev has said that
Nagorno-Karabakh's predominantly Armenian population must agree to
return under Azerbaijani rule or emigrate from its homeland.

`We will never allow the creation of a second Armenian state on
Azerbaijani soil,' Aliev said in his New Year's address to the nation
cited by Azerbaijani media. `If the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh
want to self-determine, they should do that within the framework of
Azerbaijan's territorial integrity. If they don't want that, they
should leave Nagorno-Karabakh and create their second state

The remarks came just two weeks before international mediators'
crucial visit to Baku and Yerevan which should finally clarify
whether the Karabakh conflict can be resolved before presidential
elections due in both Armenia and Azerbaijan in 2008. The French,
Russian and U.S. co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group still hope to
hammer out a framework peace accord before the Armenian election
slated for February 19. Sources close to them say the conflicting
parties essentially agree on the main points of the Minsk Group's
current peace plan.

The plan calls for a gradual settlement of the bitter dispute which
would start from the liberation of Armenian-occupied lands in
Azerbaijan proper and end in a referendum of self-determination in
Karabakh. Although it sets no time frame for the holding of such a
referendum, the mediators seem to accept the very possibility of
eventual international recognition of the disputed territory's
secession from Soviet Azerbaijan.

However, Aliev again insisted that his country will never come to
terms with the loss of Karabakh. `Nagorno-Karabakh will never be
granted independence,' he said. `The leadership and the people of
Azerbaijan will never agree to that.'

Aliev also pledged to carry on with a military build-up which Baku
hopes will eventually enable it to win back Karabakh. He said
Azerbaijan's defense spending will rise by at least 20 percent to
$1.2 billion this year as a result. `We are reinforcing our army
because we must be ready to free our lands of occupiers at any moment
and by any means,' he added.

Armenia's defense budget, although more modest in absolute terms, is
likewise set to increase by over 30 percent to $400 million in 2008.
In the intensifying arms race with Azerbaijan, Armenia can also
capitalize on its close military ties with Russia which allow it to
receive Russian weapons at knockdown prices or even free of charge.

In a televised speech on December 31, President Robert Kocharian said
his government further boosted the combat-readiness of Armenia's
Armed Forces in the course of 2007. `The strengthening of the army
will remain a top priority,' he said.

Kocharian said that Yerevan will also `step up efforts to bolster the
Nagorno-Karabakh by helping our brethren to build viable statehood. A
statehood which is able to defend itself.'